How to Treat Uneven Shoulders?


How to Treat Uneven Shoulders?

Uneven shoulders can result in significant pain in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Fortunately, most cases of uneven shoulders can be managed.

Generally speaking, there are four broad conservative, non-invasive strategies for fixing uneven shoulders. These strategies include chiropractic care, sleep positioning, exercise, and certain home remedies.

Can a Chiropractor Fix Uneven Shoulders?

Chiropractors are experts in the musculoskeletal system. As a result, they often perform chiropractic adjustments for shoulder problems and other issues including uneven shoulders.

Uneven shoulders can have multiple causes. Some instances of uneven shoulders, like those caused by scoliosis (see below), may not be fully curable. However, with proper care such conditions can be managed so as to prevent progression and lessen pain. In fact, even in complex cases involving a disease like scoliosis, appropriate chiropractic care may be able to reverse some, though probably not all, of the damage the disease has caused.

Furthermore, for those cases where uneven shoulders are caused by spinal misalignment (as opposed to deformity), poor posture, or muscular tension, chiropractic care can likely help correct those issues, too.

Lastly, many chiropractic offices employ massage therapists who can release trigger points, relieve muscle knots, and stretch out tight muscles. They also may employ physical therapists who can offer their unique services to help fix uneven shoulders. At Better Health Alaska, our Anchorage and Juneau chiropractic clinics have well-trained massage therapists and physical therapists who can help with your shoulder problems.

How To Sleep with Uneven Shoulders?

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. As a result, our sleep position can have a significant impact on our spinal alignment and posture. This, in turn, can influence the evenness or unevenness of our shoulders. Sleeping on the same side throughout the night, for example, may negatively affect the alignment of your shoulders. Consult your doctor or a sleep specialist to determine how best to modify your sleep position for maximum benefit.

Exercises To Fix Uneven Shoulders

A number of exercises can be used to reverse and fix some kinds of uneven shoulders. In fact a study by the Journal of Research in Exercise Rehabilitation concluded that selected corrective exercises are effective in reducing pain and correcting uneven shoulder deformity..” 

1. Practice Proper Posture

Uneven shoulders can cause or be caused by poor posture. And the modern office lifestyle where you are tied to your desk slumped over a computer doesn’t help. You can help your posture significantly by ensuring your workspace is ergonomic and by resisting the inclination to slump your neck down when using your phone or computer.

2. Develop a Regular Exercise Routine

Basically, you want an exercise routine that incorporates stretching as well as muscular development. Yoga, for example, often fits that bill nicely. The movements it uses work different muscle groups and can be used to target problem areas like the shoulder, back, or neck.

In the case of uneven shoulders, you’ll want to develop the muscles around the shoulders themselves as well as the back and neck.

Some specific shoulder stretches you can include in an exercise routine include:

  • The Doorway Stretch: stand in a doorway with each hand gripping the sides a little below shoulder level. Put some weight on the shoulder by leaning forward with your back straight.
  • Cross Arm Stretch: reach across your chest and touch the back of your opposing shoulder if you can. Then switch sides. This is an excellent stretch for both posterior and anterior shoulder pain.
  • Upper Trapezius Stretch:  while sitting in a chair, place one hand behind your back and the other on top of your head. Use the hand on top of your head to gently pull your head towards your shoulder. Hold for about 30 seconds. Release and switch sides.
  • Shoulder Towel Stretch: Grasp a towel on either end with your two hands, placing the towel behind your back. With the hand on top, try to pull the towel upwards. Hold for approximately 20 seconds, and then switch sides.

However, you should realize that exercise isn’t the only way of treating uneven shoulders.

Home Remedies to Fix Uneven Shoulders

There are a few simple things at home you can try to fix your uneven shoulders. These techniques are typically more effective if the problem is a strictly muscular or tissue issue (tension, injury, tendonitus etc…) as opposed to a skeletal one. In any event, things to try include:

a. Rest

This is the easiest remedy to do as it simply requires you to just do nothing: sit and relax, read a book, meditate, pray, or just take it easy. This can go a long way in undoing muscular tension and unwinding knots that may be causing unevenness. Find other ways to release shoulder muscle knots by reading our tips.

b. Hot Bath

A hot bath can do wonders to reduce tension and alleviate stress – both of which can contribute to uneven shoulders.

c. Ice and Heating Pads

The application of cold compresses and heating pads can not only reduce tension, but also serve to reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation makes it easier to work on the muscles while eliminating tension encourages blood to flow into the region and stimulates healing.

d. Exercise

I listed a number of exercises above, any one you can try. However, before you start any new exercise program, it is best to consult a medical professional first. You want to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly without overdoing it.

Uneven Shoulders and Scoliosis

Some kinds of uneven shoulders may be more difficult to treat than others. For example, uneven shoulders caused by scoliosis is probably one of the most difficult. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that current medicine can’t cure. However, it can be managed. Addressing scoliosis through chiropractic care requires a chiropractor trained in a specific branch of chiropractic care that is scoliosis-specific. Not all chiropractors are so trained.

There is evidence, though, that scoliosis-specific chiropractic care is effective. A case study in  the National Library of Medicine describes a scoliotic 12-year-old girl treated with chiropractic measures over a period of six months. Although not cured, the girl’s scoliosis improved significantly. Her Cobb angle (a measure of deformity in the spine) improved by 6% in the thoracic curve and 7% in the lumbar curve.

That is strong evidence in support of the effectiveness of chiropractic care.

The Causes of Uneven Shoulders

The causes of uneven shoulders are quite varied. They include poor posture, habitual use of or favoring of one shoulder over the other, diseases like scoliosis, a pinched nerve in a shoulder, or some other injury.

In young individuals, particularly athletes, overdoing it in sports like tennis, football, baseball and volleyball can cause a pinched nerve which in turn can lead to uneven shoulders.


Uneven shoulder is a condition that, if not treated, can cause significant pain, and can get progressively worse over time. As experts in the musculoskeletal system, a chiropractor is uniquely suited to help patients deal with uneven shoulders. They can diagnose and recommend treatments that are conservative and non-invasive. A chiropractor’s office is a good place to start if you want to fix your uneven shoulders.


Dr. Brent Wells

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells is an actively practicing chiropractic physician that has personally led over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles since 1998. He is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Anchorage and Juneau where he brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

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