Uneven shoulders are not normal but are commonly seen due to postural and structural complications. There is a multitude of structural or postural reasons why you may have uneven shoulders, including:
Scoliosis Scoliosis can be further broken in structural or functional scoliosis. Structural scoliosis essentially means that the bones of the spine themselves have adapted to the position and have changed shape, while functional scoliosis is scoliosis due to improper posture. Both of them may cause uneven shoulders.
Unlevel Pelvis Another reason for uneven shoulders is an unlevel pelvis. The body will compensate for the unlevel pelvis and try to straighten the head, this may generally result with uneven shoulders. Furthermore, there will be additional pressure on one side of the body, unbalancing the body.
Favoring a dominant side Favoring a dominant side may cause muscle imbalances and therefore may cause uneven shoulders. Most individuals have a dominant side, however it is important to train both sides of the body as not to encourage postural imbalances. For athletes involved in overhead motion sports, a study showed that the shoulder blade on the non-dominant side rests closer to the spine, while the dominant shoulder blade winged out (1). The severity of the imbalance will dictate how it will need to be treated. There may be a combination of manual adjustments and rehabilitation involved.
Short-term impacts of uneven shoulders can range from pain, stiffness, and weakness of the body.
Long term impact
Long-term impacts depend on the severity of the uneven shoulders and the underlying cause/causes. If nothing is done about the uneven shoulders, they will progressively get worse and the symptoms may progress. This may impact your daily activities and work life.
Can a Chiropractor fix uneven shoulders?
A Chiropractor can use a multitude of techniques that may help fix uneven shoulders. It is important to understand why you have uneven shoulders as this will dictate your care.
Depending on the underlying cause, a Chiropractor may use manual adjustments, muscle techniques, rehabilitation exercises, and/or postural advice. Structural dysfunctions such as scoliosis will depend on the severity of the curvature of the spine. A moderate to mild curvature may be treated with a combination of manual adjustment and scoliosis corrective-focused rehabilitation exercises. Postural dysfunctions such as favoring a dominant side will be treated with a mix of manual adjustments, postural and lifestyle advice. Overall, care may stop the progression of uneven shoulders and bring the body alignment closer to midline.
Tips to help with uneven shoulders
If you do have uneven shoulders, it is important to figure out what is the underlying cause. If you do favor your dominant side, start by changing sides when you do your daily tasks such as brushing your teeth. A full body stretching routine may help with muscle imbalances and lengthen out the shortened muscles.
If you do repetitive motions with only one limb, this increases the chance of you favoring one side. Therefore remember to swap sides if it is safe to do so.
Oyama, S., Myers, J. B., Wassinger, C. A., Daniel Ricci, R., & Lephart, S. M. (2008). Asymmetric resting scapular posture in healthy overhead athletes. Journal of athletic training, 43(6), 565–570. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-43.6.565