Is One Shoulder Higher?

Question MarkJuly Question of the Month

Is one of your shoulders higher than the other?

Most people have one shoulder higher than the other. Is one of your shoulders higher, and if so, which one?

How to find out

Look in the mirror, let your arms hang by your side naturally, and look at your shoulders. Is one higher than the other?

Check your collarbones – is the collarbone on your higher shoulder higher than the other side, or is it even?

Draw an imaginary line across your shoulder line parallel to the floor (or perpendicular to the midline of your body, if that’s easier to picture). Is one shoulder higher and the other lower than that line? Or is one side level and the other is higher or lower?

What it could mean

If one shoulder and that collarbone is higher, there are a number of muscles that could be pulling your shoulder up towards your head – upper traps, scalenes, levator scapula. While you should try to identify why that side is tighter (what are you doing on a regular basis that brings that shoulder up?), our suggested stretch should help relieve the tension in those muscles and help them become more even.

If your collarbones are even but one shoulder is higher, your upper traps may be overworking and as a result be more bulky. This could be due to tight muscles in your side along your ribs making the top of your shoulder work harder than the other side. For that, our suggested stretch will help, but you should also try to stretch out your side with a gentle lat stretch.

If one collarbone is higher and the other is lower, you may have a tilt further down the body – possibly in your ribs, lower back, or side. We’ll be looking at side tilts in a future QOM, but if you’d like to know more before then, you can comment below, or email us, or come in for a session where we can have a look.

Suggested exercise/stretch

This side neck/top of shoulder is great for a lot of muscles that can get tight. As always, stretch very gently, especially because we are moving the neck, and do not do this if you have a history of neck problems or vertebral problems in your neck without checking with a healthcare practitioner first.


1. Put your arm behind your back or grab on to the side of the chair you’re sitting on to encourage your shoulder to stay down.

2. Very gently tilt your head away from that shoulder, lengthening your head away from your shoulder (i.e., don’t crunch your neck down on itself). To stretch slightly more in the back of the shoulder, look down towards your hip while stretching, for the front of the neck and shoulder look slightly up.

3. Stretch gently – aim for a 3 out of 10 in intensity, and you should start to feel a release after 10 seconds – if it hasn’t decreased in that time, you may need to ease up on the stretch. You can hold this for around 30 seconds.

So what did you find, is one shoulder higher? Does the stretch help? Let us know how you go, and of course, if you feel you need help you are always welcome to come see us where we can assess any shoulder imbalances and give you advice specific to your situation as to why you may have it.