When we think of scoliosis or poor posture, we often think of a hunched back or sloped shoulders. But there's yet another sign of spine trouble: uneven shoulders.
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Causes of Uneven Shoulders
One possible cause of uneven shoulders is a muscle imbalance. According to the American Council on Exercise, there are a number of reasons why muscles can be imbalanced, such as repetitive motions. When the same muscles are used repeatedly for the same actions, they can become overused or remain partially contracted.
Performing exercises in a single plane of motion or exercises that are limited to a single course, for example, can cause muscle imbalances. To avoid creating this unevenness, vary your exercise program to include a variety of movements: pushing, pulling, rotating, moving sideways and rotationally.
Furthermore, maintaining poor posture can create an imbalance in the shoulders. Having weak posture could affect range of movement and eventually lead to injury. Practicing core stability exercises or pulling movements with your hands can help you maintain an upright posture.
Scoliosis can also play a major role in uneven shoulders. Scoliosis, explains Mayo Clinic, is a sideways curvature of the spine, with symptoms that include uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade appearing more prominent than the other, an uneven waist and varied hip heights.
Read more: How to Fix the Worst Posture Mistakes
Exercises to Correct Shoulder Heights
There are several exercises you can do to combat bad posture and correct shoulder height. The UC Irvine School of Medicine suggests:
Move 1: Plank Exercise
Planks help activate muscles that support the spine.
- You can begin by placing your hands flat on the mat with your arms straight.
- With your legs straight behind you and your hands directly under your shoulders, flex your toes.
- Make sure your trunk, pelvis and head are aligned, and hold for a given amount of time.
Move 2: Pelvic Tilts
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Flatten your back onto the mat by tightening your stomach muscles and buttocks.
- Hold for five seconds, then repeat 10 times and do two sets.
Move 3: Cat-Camel
- Start with your hands and knees on the mat.
- Breathe in and round your back, while relaxing the neck.
- While breathing out, lower your chest while looking upward.
- Return to starting position, repeat the same movement 10 times and do two sets.
How to Stand Properly
If you're experiencing one shoulder higher than the other with pain, adjusting your posture may be a good starting point for improvement. The National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom suggests ways you can correct your posture.
Don't slouch in a chair: Slouching in your chair can increase the tension in your muscles and result in back and shoulder pain. Try to develop the habit of sitting correctly, which may be uncomfortable at first, but will improve as your muscles become conditioned. Exercises that improve slouching include bridges, back extensions and planks.
Some people may have what's called hyperlordosis, which is when you have an exaggerated inward lower back curve that throws the body out of alignment. The NHS recommends doing core and buttocks strengthening exercises and consciously making an effort to improve your posture by keeping your shoulders back and relaxed, weight balanced, legs straight and abdomen pulled in.
Other issues that lead to poor posture and can cause uneven shoulders are standing with a flat back, which causes muscles imbalances; leaning on one leg while standing; hunched back and "text neck," caused from hunching over a computer or cell phone too often; poking out your chin, rounded shoulders; and cradling your phone.