Why Is One of Your Shoulders Slightly Higher? How to Cope?

Having one of your shoulders higher than the other is a postural condition. The problem may seem simple but it can cause serious consequences, mainly because it puts too much pressure on the spine. Too much time spent in front of a computer or having a bad posture with too much slouching can be the causes.

One Shoulder Higher Than the Other: Causes

From bad posture to shoulder injuries, so many factors can contribute to this postural problem. Here are some of the most common causes.

1. Poor Posture

Poor body posture is probably the most common reason why you have misaligned shoulders.

  • You develop a poor posture if you are always in a slouched position when sitting or standing.
  • People who try to keep their back straight may also develop poor body posture as the spine actually has three natural curves, and is quite like the letter 'S'. 
  • What's more, if you don't keep your shoulders in line with your ankles and hip joints, postural problems may also occur.

2. Shoulder Injuries

You can get shoulder injuries while engaging in sports, which may lead to a misaligned shoulder. Falls and accidents can also lead to this problem. Your shoulder joint may sag lower if you have separated shoulders, dislocated shoulders, collarbone fractures, or upper arm fractures.

3. Scoliosis

This condition deforms your spine and usually affects your thoracic spine or mid back. What causes scoliosis is still not clear. If you have this condition, one of your shoulder may sit lower as compared to the other. Your doctor may have a closer look at your misaligned upper body and shoulders to confirm if you have scoliosis.

4. Osteoporosis

Also called brittle bone disease, osteoporosis lowers your bone density and makes your bone weak. When your bones lack magnesium, calcium, and boron, they are more likely to break even after a minor fall. People with osteoporosis usually have to deal with compression-type fractures in the thoracic region, which eventually causes a humpback. This also pushes the neck and shoulders forward.

One Shoulder Higher Than the Other: Coping Methods

1. Treat Shoulder Injury

Work with your doctor to treat your shoulder injury in a proper way. You should not put any stress on your shoulder while it is still healing. It makes sense to work with a physiotherapist to understand how to strengthen your shoulder girdle muscles. This will help you attain full range of motion in a short time.

2. Treat Scoliosis

Seek treatment for scoliosis if it is the main cause of one shoulder higher than the other. It does not always require treatment, especially when the curve is less than 20 degrees, but serious cases require medical help. Here are some treatment options:

  • Your doctor may ask you to wear a brace, which does not correct the curve but keeps it from becoming worse. Wearing an underarm brace is usually a better choice because it covers the lower part of your torso. Sometimes, you require a full-torso brace in case the curve is affecting your neck or upper spine. You can remove the brace while showering.
  • You may need surgery in serious cases. Spinal fusion is usually the choice because it helps slow down the progression of scoliosis. The procedure involves grafting two or more vertebrae in your spine. Your surgeon uses screws, plates, and other hardwares to protect the area that has been grafted. He or she may also implant a metal rod and attach it to the affected area – you can have it lengthened every few months.
  • Along with wearing a brace and undergoing a surgical procedure, it is equally important to receive emotional and social support from people around you. It is even more important when your child is coping with scoliosis. Children support groups may help here.

3. Deal with Osteoporosis

It is necessary to take medications if osteoporosis is the reason why you have one shoulder lower than the other. Making some lifestyle changes may also help. For instance, you should stop smoking because it puts you at an increased risk of losing bone density and developing osteoporosis. You should also limit your alcohol intake and not go beyond a couple of drinks a day. You also increase your risk of falling and getting in an accident when under the influence of alcohol.

Exercises to Correct One Shoulder Higher Than the Other

1. Posture Exercises

It is important to practice correct posture and exercise to solve the "high shoulder" problem. Always stand in an upright position with your back straight, and keep your shoulders' level be aligned with your spine and skeleton. You should also keep your chin up and look straight ahead to maintain an upright posture. Yoga, martial arts, and many other fitness practices work great to realign your body.

2. Stretching Exercises

It is important to stretch your shoulders and related muscles to avoid putting more stress on one shoulder. 

  • Stand in a doorway with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Slowly lift your right arm up until your upper arm is parallel with the floor.
  • With your right forearm on the right side of the doorway, push your shoulders and chest forward. You should also push to the left of your body for a better stretch.
  • Maintain the position for 20 seconds and do the same on the other side.

3. Massage Treatments

A muscular problem can also misalign your shoulders, and that is why it really helps to receive massage treatments. An experienced massage therapist can help identify the root cause and correct your uneven shoulders by giving you massage.

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