Why is my shoulder higher than the other?
Ever looked in the mirror and then noticed your body is not symmetrical? Like you actually have one shoulder higher than the other? Or may be your personal trainer might have pointed it out for you as you’re doing pull-ups or other upper body workouts? Don’t worry there are several reasons that can explain this lopsidedness.
Most of us as kids growing up, we tend to carry our backpacks on one side more than the other, especially if you’re one of the cool kids! This loading of one side of the body for a prolonged period of time will cause the muscles to become overactive and overdeveloped; so one shoulder is always shrugged up to carry the weight of the bag causing the muscles to become so tight lifting the shoulder blade up at all times. This is also common amongst drivers who tend to lean sideways on the armrest with their weight on forearms. Even more common are those working for long hours on desks with their right or left arm reaching forward for the mouse pad or call center operators always tucking the phones between their neck and shoulder. Think about it, if you assume those forward shrugged shoulder positions for several hours a day, for months and years, your muscles will start to take that shape and shift the joint position resulting in misalignment.
Apart from poor postural habits that most of us have sadly adopted over the years, this shoulder imbalance could be coming from misalignment elsewhere in the body. For example, people who have leg length discrepancy where one leg is shorter than the other. This could be due to over-activation of back muscles on one side as a result of low back pain, or actual discrepancy due to hip/pelvic bone structure since birth. Another example is pain and stiffness in the neck or tightness in chest muscles can create a pull on the shoulder putting it in upward or forward position. This can result from again, poor posture or bad training habits where you overuse on side of your body predominantly either because its stronger or as compensation mechanism to avoid pain on other parts of the body.
On a more serious note, an actual imbalance in the shoulder could be a result of a condition known as “scapular dyskinesis” which translates to alteration in scapular (shoulder blade) position and movement mechanics. This means that the shoulder blade doesn’t move in rhythm together with the shoulder during normal arm movements. Scapular dyskinesis can result from injuries to the nerves that supply scapular muscles, injuries to the muscles or shoulder joint itself, as well as muscle imbalance (weakness/tightness) in scapular muscles.
Don’t worry it is not a disease! And fortunately it is a condition that can be fixed through progressive rehabilitation, which focuses on restoring muscular balance around the shoulder blade. This involves manual therapy to improve muscle flexibility as well as strengthening/activation exercises to improve muscle recruitment and performance.
So if you do have one shoulder higher than the other, regardless of the cause of this asymmetry, get it checked out and sorted through physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathic care because it can lead to other injuries and cause further damage in the future. But also remember, prevention is key to avoid getting to this stage in the first place which is GOOD POSTURE and PROPER training habits and technique.