Uneven Shoulders: 12 Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Uneven shoulders sometimes happen when one shoulder is higher than the other which is caused by some health challenges. This post is made to enlighten you more on the causes, symptoms, treatment of uneven shoulders and some of the common exercises you can apply for a quick recovery.

Meaning of Uneven Shoulders

Different type of injury causes people to develop uneven shoulders. Many people also develop uneven shoulders due to some  particular habits, lifestyle, or muscular, bone, neurological conditions.       

Shoulder is said to be uneven when one shoulder is higher than the other. It may be a slight or significant difference and most times is due to several causes but there are steps one can take to bring the body back into balance and alignment.

If your body is correctly aligned, your shoulders will be at the same height and facing forward. One of the  possible causes of uneven shoulders are muscle imbalance. There are number of reasons why muscles may be imbalanced, including repetitive motions. When a particular muscles is used continuously for the same actions, they might become overused or remain partially contracted. Engaging in exercises in a single plane of motion or exercises that are limited to a single course, can cause muscle imbalances.

To avoid creating this unevenness, vary the exercise program to include a variety of movements: pushing, pulling, rotating, moving sideways and rotational. Uneven shoulders could indicate many different things, from scoliosis to a leg length discrepancy.  Nevertheless, in most situations it is indicative of simply a muscle imbalance in the upper extremities.

Some people appear to have a shoulder jammed up simply because they sleep on that side, or possibly because they carry a heavy bag or purse or talk on the phone by leaning the head down to that shoulder. 

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Causes of Uneven Shoulders

Several factors can lead to uneven shoulders. Often the shoulder on the dominant side of your body is a little lower. Misalignment can be caused by something as simple as:

1. Continuous usage of one hand or one side of the body for writing

2. Carrying a heavy bag repeatedly on one side

3. Going about ones daily activities

4. Uneven shoulders can also occur when one have structural issues or muscular skeletal imbalances in the body. This may include legs that vary in length or scoliosis. Uneven shoulders can also be possible as a result of an imbalance somewhere else in the body as a domino effect. Example, if ones ankle or hip is hurt, it will cause you to bring your body out of alignment as you adjust to how you hold and move your body. 

Most sports and certain injuries are capable of causing a muscular imbalance, especially in the upper body. Asymmetrical sports such as tennis, golf, and baseball are especially likely to cause uneven shoulders and postural imbalances. Other common causes of uneven shoulders includes;

5. Poor Posture: Muscular and skeletal structures can develop into incorrect shapes due to certain postural habits. If a person maintains poor posture, their shoulders may become uneven, as some sets of muscles become tight and others become weak. An example is rounded shoulder posture (RSP). Rounded shoulder posture can cause Trusted Source the chest muscles to become tight and the shoulder muscles to become longer.

6. Sedentary lifestyle

7. Uneven hips

8. Pinched Nerve: Damage or conditions that affect the nerves responsible for sensations in the shoulder muscles, especially cranial nerve XI, can cause one shoulder to sit higher or lower than the other.

9. Nerve Damage: This occurs due to injury or neurological conditions, especially those known to cause neuromuscular scoliosis, such as;

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystroph
  • Spinal muscular atrophy
  • Spina bifida
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • A pinched nerve
  • Flat feet
  • Osteoporosisi
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Overuse or misuse of the shoulders.

10. Incorrect sleeping position or only sleeping on one side

11. Using one side of the body to hold objects

12. Weak or tight muscles especially among males playing sports that involves overhead motions, such as tennis, baseball, and volleyball, study showed that the scapula (shoulder blade) on the dominant side was more inwardly rotated than the scapula on the non dominant side. Certain sports habits, and activities typically those that involve the heavy use of one arm can cause imbalances that lead to uneven shoulders.

Symptoms of Uneven Shoulders

  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Tightness in the shoulder that is higher
  • Headache
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis. etc.

How to Fix Uneven Shoulders

Frequent therapeutic massages assist in relieving muscle tension and increases flexibility. An appointment with a massage therapist who specializes in Myofascial release or Rolfing can go a long way. The specialist focuses on taking the body back to balance and alignment. A treatment sessions with a chiropractor, osteopath, or physiotherapist will also be helpful.

It’s a good idea to engage in regular exercise and participate in sports as much as possible. Yoga, swimming, and rowing can help to strengthen and realign uneven shoulders. Martial arts such as tai chi may be beneficial as well. Make it a practice to check in with your posture continually throughout the day because it may be really helpful to use a mirror in particular.

Becoming aware of your posture is important not only while you’re standing or sitting but as you are  completing the usual day to day  activity. Start using your non dominant arm as much as you can to balance out the workload. Incorporating relaxation techniques into ones daily routine can help to relieve stress, tension, and tightness of the body. This may include; meditation, breathing techniques, or anything else that helps you to relax and below are some of the technique’s Exercise include;

1. Shoulder Raises

  • Bring your arms to your sides and align your spine.
  • Squeeze and lift the shoulders up toward your ears. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax your shoulders back down. Continue for 30 seconds.

2. Ear to Shoulder Stretch

  • Sit or stand with the head and neck in a straight line
  • Keep the shoulders still as you tilt your head toward your shoulder.
  • Use your hand to hold onto or massage the opposite shoulder or gently pull your head down toward your shoulder.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Do this stretch at least 2 times on each side.

3. Shoulder Blade Squeezes

  • While standing, bring your arms alongside your body.
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together and down.
  • Hold for a few breaths.
  • Release to the starting position. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

4. Reverse Prayer Pose

  • Bring the backs of your hands together behind your back with your fingertips pointing down.
  • Open the chest and bring your shoulders back.
  • Flips your hands so that the fingers are pointing up.
  • Bring your palms together, pressing into your hands and drawing your elbows back.
  • Remain in this pose for 30 seconds. Do this stretch a few times throughout the day.

5. Resistant Band Shoulder Squeeze

  • Hook a resistance band around something sturdy and hold it in both hands.
  • Turn your hands so the thumbs are up and your pinkies are down.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring your hands back. (This can be done with your arms at shoulder level and at hip level.)
  • Then, turn your hands so the fingers are facing down.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades and pull your hands toward your hips. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions for all three stretches.

6. Reverse Fly

  • Sit on the edge of a bench with your waist bent forward.
  • Face toward the floor and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lift your arms out and up as you contract your shoulder blades.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds, keeping your arms parallel to the floor.
  • Return to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

7. Resistance Band Arm Stretch Squeeze

  • Stand with your feet as wide as your hips.
  • Grab onto the resistance band and bring both arms in front of your body so they’re parallel to the floor.
  • Squeeze your arms together, then release.
  • Then, raise your arms straight up, so they’re touching your ears.
  • Try to make a “T” with your arms by stretching the band as wide as possible and return to the original position.
  • Next, lower the band so it’s behind your neck and hold this position for a few breaths.
  • Then, lift it back up again. Do 3 sets of 12 for all three stretches

8. Overhead External Shoulder Rotation

  • Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and lift your arm so your elbow is at shoulder height and your hand is down.
  • Rotate your shoulder to bring your arm up so your hand is up toward the ceiling.
  • Return to the original position. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.


Uneven shoulders occurs due to several habits and conditions, especially those that affect the shoulders, upper back, chest or neck. People  living with mildly uneven shoulders may respond well to at-home stretches and exercises although severe cases require medical attention from a doctor, physical therapist, massage therapist, or other licensed healthcare professionals.

Uneven shoulders can be annoying, but have it in mind that it’s just a positioning or posture that your body is using to cope with the environment around. The asymmetry can quickly be fixed by some breathing exercises and resetting the nervous system, but will require some repetitions to really make it stick.

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