Is muscle weakness / tightness causing my right shoulder being elevated more than the left?

Shoulder-pain-and-injury

Question:

The upward rotation of my right scapula was reduced at overhead position compared to my left one. At rest, my right shoulder is slightly elevated. When I perform the plank position and completely stop pushing, both scapulas are pushed back but the right scapula is winging a bit while the left one can still glue to the back. I can feel that. I don’t have any pain. What sort of muscular imbalance I may have?

Answer:

Thank you for reaching out to us about your concerns. We will do what we can to assist you, but please note that we may not be able to specifically address your problem or provide a diagnosis without a full physical therapy evaluation.

This could be caused either by a muscle weakness or a muscle tightness. One of the muscles that elevates the scapula, the levator scapulae, can be responsible for your right shoulder being elevated above the level of the left while at rest. When the scapula is in an elevated position at rest, it will have a difficult time conforming to the curvature of your rib cage during planks. This muscle can also be responsible for limiting the upward rotation of the scapula when you are lifting your arms overhead if it is tight, along with your pectoral musculature. Posture can be responsible for both of these muscles being tight. Making sure that your shoulders are relaxed back and down throughout the day can help these loosen up on their own.

Weakness of the muscles that help pull the scapula down and keep it snug to the rib cage can also contribute to tightness of the levator scapulae and pectoral muscles. The serratus anterior is the muscle that is attached to the front side of the scapula and will help keep it tight to the rib cage. You can work on this muscle while doing your plank. During the plank, make sure to keep your chest pushed away from the floor without arching your mid back.

The lower trapezius attaches to the inner portion of the scapula and will help depress it. We often start working on this muscle by lying on your stomach with your arm by your side, then lifting the shoulder off the ground in the direction of the opposite back pocket. Both the lower trapezius and serratus anterior work together with the upper trap to allow for upward scapular rotation. If there is weakness in either of these, you could end up with a presentation that sounds similar to yours.

It may also be beneficial to reflect on what you are doing in your normal day-to-day activities that may be contributing to an asymmetrical posture. If these concerns persist, we recommend following up with a physical therapist who can perform an examination and give you a more detailed explanation for your presentation.

Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

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