Several types of injury can cause someone to develop uneven shoulders.

People can also develop uneven shoulders due to particular habits, lifestyle factors, or muscular, bone, or neurological conditions.

In this article, we discuss the causes of uneven shoulders, exercises to stretch and strengthen the shoulder muscles, and when to see a doctor.

Nerve damage or conditions

According to a 2021 article Trusted Source, damage or conditions that affect the nerves responsible for sensations in the shoulder muscles, especially cranial nerve XI, can cause one shoulder to sit higher or lower than the other.

Nerve damage can occur due to injury or neurological conditions, especially those known to cause neuro muscular scoliosis, such as:

  • cerebral palsy
  • muscular dystrophy
  • spinal muscular atrophy
  • spina bifida
  • spinal cord trauma
  • a pinched nerve

Depending on the cause, treatment options can include:

  • physical therapy
  • surgery
  • medication

Exercises

Some exercises to help stretch and strengthen the shoulder muscles include:

The pendulum

  • Lean forward with a flat back and slightly bent knees and put one hand to the side on a table or counter, letting the other arm hang freely.
  • Gently swing the arm back and forward, then side to side, and then in a circular motion.
  • Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other arm.
  • Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions, five or six times per week.

The crossover arm stretch

  • Relax the shoulders and gently pull one arm across the chest as far as possible without causing discomfort, holding the upper arm in place with the other hand.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then relax for 30 seconds before repeating with the other arm.
  • Repeat the two steps above 4 times on each side.

A person should do this exercise five or six times per week. It is important to avoid pulling or putting pressure on the elbow.

Standing row

A person will need an elastic stretch band

  • Make a loop of about 3 feet in length with the elastic band and attach the loop to a doorknob.
  • Stand facing the doorknob, holding the band with the elbow bent to about 90 degrees.
  • Keeping the arm close to the body, slowly pull the elbow back. The band should become more taut.
  • Slowly return to the start position and then repeat the movement.
  • Perform this exercise three times a week, completing 3 sets of 8 repetitions each time.

A person can purchase elastic stretch bands here.

External rotation with arm abducted 90

  • Make a loop measuring 3 feet with the elastic stretch band. Attach the look to a doorknob.
  • Holding the band in one hand, raise this arm out to the side to shoulder height and then bend the elbow to 90 degrees, keeping the forearm in line with the upper arm.
  • Slowly raise the hand until it is in line with the head. The band should become more taut.
  • Return slowly and repeat.
  • Perform this exercise three times a week, completing 3 sets of 8 repetitions each time.

Internal rotation

  • Making a 3-foot long loop with the band, tie the ends together and attach it to a doorknob. Keep hold of the other end.
  • Stand with the elbow bent as though shaking someones hand.
  • Keeping the elbow close to the side, bring the lower arm across the body.
  • Slowly return and repeat.
  • Perform this exercise three times a week, and do 3 sets of 8 repetitions each time.

External rotation

  • Follow steps 1 and 2 for the internal rotation exercise above.
  • Keeping the elbow close to the side, rotate the arm outward slowly.
  • Slowly return and repeat.
  • Perform this exercise three times a week, and do 3 sets of 8 repetitions each time.

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