One Shoulder Lower Than the Other! Facts vs Myths


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Closely observing your child one day and you come across their one shoulder lower than the other? Before rushing towards your doctor in an anguish, you may want to give a quick read through this article. As we tell you what unequal level of shoulders means. And what to do about it.

What Does One Shoulder Lower Than the Other Mean?

When you are standing upright and your body is perfectly aligned, both shoulders should be straight,of the same height and facing forward. One shoulder lower than the other means that there is an inequality in the level of shoulders.

There either may be a slight, hardly noticeable difference or a significant difference in the level of shoulders. In the latter case, there is a 100 % chance of you panicking like crazy. But let’s break down what actually causes one shoulder lower than the other.

Causes of One Shoulder Lower Than the Other

There are several causes of uneven shoulders. Often the dominant shoulder is slightly lower than the other.

Often our day to day activities may be the reason for the misalignment of shoulders. Such as

  • Always using one hand for writing
  • Carrying a heavy bag or weight always on one shoulder
  • Using one arm more for going about your daily activities
  • Always sleeping on one side
  • The Domino effect. When you injure one part of your body, such as your ankle, knee or hip, the body changes its alignment to adjust to this imbalance of posture. This ends up you having one shoulder lower than the other.

Some other causes of one shoulder lower than the other include the following.

Postural Irregularities

You may think that a bad posture isn’t that bad of an idea, right? But guess what, it actually is! Keeping up a bad posture for longer periods of time tend to cause your bones and muscles to develop into those wrong shapes.

One example is the Rounded Shoulder Posture. This causes the chest muscles to become tighter. And the shoulder muscles to grow longer. Hence the misalignment.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

One major reason for this unbalance include problems with the muscular and skeletal systems. These include

  • Sprengel Deformity. This is a condition in which the shoulder blade aka scapula is too high on one side from birth Often the affected shoulder blade hasn’t developed properly (dysplasia). This, for very obvious reasons, tends to cause one shoulder lower than the other.
  • Scoliosis is a condition in which there is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. As the backbone is more curved to one side, the shoulders also become uneven.
  • Kyphosis is a condition similar to scoliosis. There is an excessive backward curvature of the spine. Which causes one shoulder lower than the other.

Sports Injuries

There are some sports that cause you to favor one arm and hand more than the other. These include golf, tennis, badminton, table tennis and squash.

Other sports than require overhead motions of the arm, such as tennis, volleyball and baseball cause the shoulder blade of the dominant side to be more rotated inwards than the nondominant side.

So, both these mechanisms end up causing this unbalance.

Nerve Injuries

Nerve injuries, which occur as a part of other disease processes, are another major reason for misalignment of your shoulder. Some of these include

  • Trauma to the spinal cord
  • Nerve entrapment (pinched nerve)
  • Spina Bifida
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Muscular Atrophies

What is Dropped Shoulder Syndrome?

Dropped shoulder syndrome (DSS) is another reason for one shoulder lower than the other. Dropped shoulder syndrome results from entrapment of the cervical nerve that supplies the shoulder region, often as a result of herniation or collapse of a vertebra.

This condition then causes an imbalance in the level of shoulders. And left sided DSS is often one of the culprits causing atypical chest pain, aka chest pain without a cardiac cause.

Symptoms of Uneven Shoulders

Misaligned shoulders, apart from causing a disturbance in your overall look, also present with other symptoms. These include

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder and lower back
  • A sense of pulling or strain in the higher shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Bursitis and tendonitis
  • Difficulty in carrying about normal activities.
  • Misalignment, with your shoulders not being in level with your hips

How to Treat One Shoulder Lower than the Other?

So, after practically covering all (or mostly all) that you have to know about unequal level of shoulders, lets move on to the main part. Yup, the treatment. There are several treatment options available, as follows.

Changes in Routine

Treating uneven shoulders isn’t a day’s job. It requires patience and perseverance, and a lot of it! You may want to bring in changes in your day to day routine.

These include engaging your non-dominant shoulder in regular work more often. Switching sides when falling asleep and sharing the workload between both arms.

Relaxation and Massage for One Shoulder Lower Than the Other

Often with one shoulder lower than the other, your body maybe in a state of tightness and stress. Adding in relaxing practices such as meditation and breathing exercises helps relieve that added stress and helps you to relax.

Apart from that, routine therapeutic massages are another way to help get rid of that muscular tension ad soreness. You can check in with a massage specialist, a chiropractor or even an osteopath.

Exercise and Physiotherapy

As much as we all hate exercise (been there, done that!), exercise has a proven role and benefit when correcting postural disturbances.

Regular exercise can help strengthen your muscles, lengthen your backbone and improve mobility. You can practice these exercises at home or schedule a visit with your physiotherapist.

Medicine and Surgery

These options are reserved for advance neurological and skeletal diseases.


As we discussed (in very detail!), one shoulder lower than the other is a common problem you may come across. Though it may seem unusual, a lot of our routine activities may be a contributor. And bringing changes in our day to day routine may actually give results.

However, for more complex causes, you may want to check in with your doctor. Or seek help from a physiotherapist or chiropractor.


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