Uneven Shoulder: An Overview

Under normal condition, both shoulders are symmetrical and are at same level at rest. Uneven shoulder is an abnormal condition, where an asymmetry is noted between both shoulders. It can be noted in a couple of planes; however, the most common observation is when one shoulder appears at the higher level than the other even at rest. Uneven shoulder is an indication of muscular, structural or neural imbalance. The causes of uneven shoulders are:

  • Structural issues such as leg length discrepancies or scoliosis
  • Muscular imbalances or distortions caused due to sports
  • Neurological conditions such as radiculopathy or pinched nerve
  • Sleeping in inappropriate posture for a prolonged period of time.
  • Carry heavy objects such as sling bags or laptop on one shoulder for a long time.
  • Usage of mobile phones.

Uneven Shoulder

6 Exercises to Fix Uneven Shoulder

The following exercises are recommended for management of uneven shoulder:

  1. Posture Exercises to Correct Uneven Shoulders: In mild cases, being mindful of maintaining an appropriate posture often helps in rectification of the problem. It is advised to maintain a straight back with weight balanced and shoulders at same level while standing straight. These are also known as realignment exercises as they help in realignment of the skeleton. One can also consider yoga, martial art, tai chi and other forms of eastern exercises for mild skeletal realignment.

  2. Stretching Exercises to Fix Uneven Shoulders: In cases where one shoulder is at a higher level than the other shoulder, it has been noted that while performing exercises, one shoulder works harder than the other leading to conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis, neck pain and headache. In these cases, stretching exercises are recommended for correction of the problem. It can be done at home by following the given instructions:

    • Stand in the doorway with right elbow bent at 90 degrees.
    • The right arm is lifted so that the upper arm is parallel to the floor.
    • The right forearm is placed on the right side of the doorway.
    • The shoulders and chest are moved forward and to the left, until a stretch is felt in the right shoulder.
    • The position should be held for 20 seconds and then repeated on the opposite side.
  3. Resistance Band Exercises for Uneven Shoulders: These exercises are done by working on the mid back for offsetting the shoulder imbalance. One should stand at one spot with feet kept together on the floor. One end of resistance band is held in each hand, after which the arms are lifted such that they are parallel to the floor. The arms are extended so as to form a "T" with the body. It is advised to keep the arms parallel to the floor. Next, bring the arms together in front of the body and repeat the set 10 times.

  4. Fixing Uneven Shoulders with Massage Treatment: In cases of uneven shoulder caused by muscular disruption or in cases of the condition caused as a referred symptom secondary to other problems in the body, professional massage therapy may be considered. Regular therapeutic massages performed by a licensed professional are advised. These massages are designed to increase the flexibility of the affected muscle.

  5. Strengthening the Mid Back to Fix Uneven Shoulders: It is advised to strengthen the muscles of the mid back such as paraspinals, rhomboids, infraspinatus and trapezius. Weakness of these muscles leads to slouching or uneven shoulders. Exercising with rowing machines help in building these muscles. It is advised to start with light weights and low repetitions and gradually increases to heavier weight and more repetitions in four to six weeks. Reverse fly with the help of free weights also help in strengthening rhomboid and trapezius muscles. This is done by sitting on the edge of a bench with waist bent forward and facing the floor. This is followed by grabbing dumbbells in both hands followed by lifting them laterally out and up off the floor, which leads to contraction of the shoulder blades. The arms have to be held in position for a few seconds while the arms are parallel to the floor. Swimming is considered as an excellent form of exercise for strengthening muscles of the back, shoulder, spine and legs.

  6. Increasing Flexibility of the Thoracic Spine to Fix Uneven Shoulder: The following exercises help in making the thoracic spine more flexible.

    • Lie on a large exercise ball with feet on the floor and face towards the ceiling. This is followed by sliding the mid back over the bell such that the head gets closer to the ground. Once a good stretch is felt, the position is held for about 15 seconds. This needs to be done 10 – 15 times a day. Do the super man pose by lying on padded flooring face the floor with arms stretched above the head. Now lift the chin, arms and legs as much as possible off the ground.
    • Hold for 15 seconds and repeat the same 10 – 15 times a day.
    • Using a back stretcher or curved lumber stretcher for few minutes a day can also help in increasing flexibility of the back.

    Besides the above, certain lifestyle modification can also help in management of uneven shoulders. It is advised to avoid carrying heavy bags on single shoulder. Activities that lead to over straining of the arms should be avoided or minimized. It is advised to incorporate usage of hands free devices or bluetooth devices while talking on phone. In advanced cases, medical intervention is advised. Other management options include physical therapy exercises, prosthetics, chiropractic, and surgery.

    Poor posture should be avoided to prevent development of uneven shoulders. Slouching forward while sitting or standing should be avoided for the same. Shoulder injuries from physical activities, sports, traumas and accidents can cause mal-alignment of the shoulders. In some cases, physical manipulation by an experienced physiotherapist may be needed. Any back issues such as scoliosis or other neurological issues should be treated on time.

    Uneven shoulders can also be noted in cases of osteoporosis. It is thus advised to follow a healthy diet which is rich in calcium and vitamin D for maintaining healthy bones. Food products such as low fat dairy products, salmon, tofu, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals etc. are rich source of calcium.

Conclusion

Uneven shoulder is a condition characterised by one shoulder being higher than the other shoulder. This can be a temporary condition or a permanent issue. It may be caused by mechanical, neurological or structural factors. It is very important to treat the problem of uneven shoulders promptly with recommended exercises to avoid any problems like pain and discomfort in future.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 4, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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