Why Is One Shoulder Higher Than The Other
One shoulder is higher than the other? How often do you see this and how does it make you feel about your posture? Do you notice people’s eyes looking at one side of your face more than the other? If so, uneven shoulders are probably happening to you right now. Read on for some reasons why they may occur and possible solutions.
This post was written by guest blogger, Dr. Jennifer Stokes. She’s a licensed chiropractor with over 12 years’ experience working with both adults and children. Her areas of expertise are treating complex low back pain and helping patients find their “pain-free zones.” You can follow her blog here.
First let me say that there are many different types of shoulder problems, but I’m going to focus mainly on two main categories:
1) Structural Imbalance – which includes issues such as scoliosis, hip dysplasia, leg length discrepancy, and others. These conditions affect where the bones of the shoulder socket lie and how they move together.
2) Muscular Skeletal Imbalance – which affects muscles around the shoulder joint and how well these small stabilizer muscles work together with larger moving parts (the arm bone, collarbone, and upper rib cage).
I’ve had several patients with my office complain of having uneven shoulders. They said their left shoulder felt lower than their right, especially during activities like lifting up heavy boxes. In most cases, they thought they were just born this way and didn’t know what normal shoulder alignment should look like. However, if you take a closer look at their movements, you’ll likely uncover a problem. For example, someone who has been sitting down all day long would benefit from getting up and walking around throughout the day. Someone who uses a cane or walker might need to start using crutches or a stick. A person who works out will benefit from stretching exercises before and after workouts.
If you have a history of any sort of injury (i.e., dislocation, fracture), then you might want to seek medical attention immediately to determine whether your condition is due to a new injury or an old injury that needs to be reevaluated.
Muscular Skeletal Imbalance
In contrast to structural imbalance, we usually think of muscular imbalance as being something that happens only later in life because our joints don’t typically hurt until we try to use them more. It’s not uncommon for us to hear people tell stories about how they used to play sports or lift weights as kids, yet now they’re suffering from pain as they get older. When people come into my office complaining of chronic pain, I always ask them to stand up straight and tall and to hold themselves upright without support. Then I’ll ask them to reach behind themselves and pick up a pen while keeping their arms straight. Once their backs are against the wall, I’ll have them slowly bend forward until they can grab the pen between their fingers. While doing this, I’ll watch their shoulder blades and see if they move away from each other evenly. If they don’t, then there could definitely be some muscular imbalance occurring.
A lot of times, muscular imbalance can manifest itself in the form of tightness or weakness in certain muscle groups. Tightness can cause a bunching up of the muscles underneath causing a rounding of the shoulders, creating what looks like a shelf under the neck. Weakness can cause shoulders to droop downward, putting the weight on top of the chest rather than on the back. Either way, it can lead to pain and limited range of motion.
For those of us whose jobs require us to sit for hours at a time, it’s important to remember that even though we spend a large portion of the day seated, standing up and moving around throughout the day helps keep the muscles loose and supple. Just like exercising muscles in your legs help strengthen them, exercising the muscles in your torso (shoulders) will help improve their strength and flexibility.
The first thing to consider when trying to figure out if you have an issue with either structure or muscular imbalance is to go to a physical therapist. There, he/she will perform tests to evaluate your movement patterns and possibly prescribe treatments based on his findings.
Once you receive treatment, you can begin practicing corrective exercises to strengthen weak muscles and improve coordination between opposing sides of the body. Exercises like shoulder shrugs, lateral raises, dumbbell presses, triceps extensions, and bicep curls are great ways to help increase overall function of the shoulder girdle. As far as correcting structural issues, your therapist can help you learn proper technique for performing things like overhead press, dumbbell rows, barbell pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and deadlifts.
Remember that there are no quick fixes when it comes to improving mobility! Improving function takes time, persistence, and patience. So stay consistent and continue to progress regularly.
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