What Can Cause a Dropped Shoulder?

A “dropped shoulder” typically refers to a situation where one shoulder appears lower than the other. There are various potential causes for this asymmetry, and the specific reason can vary from person to person. Some common causes of a dropped shoulder include:

  • Muscle Imbalance or Weakness: Muscle imbalances or weakness in the muscles surrounding the shoulder girdle can contribute to a dropped shoulder. This may result from poor posture, lack of exercise, or an injury affecting specific muscles.
  • Nerve Damage: Injury or damage to nerves that control the muscles around the shoulder can lead to weakness or paralysis, causing one shoulder to droop. Conditions such as brachial plexus injuries or nerve compression can be contributing factors.
  • Shoulder Joint Instability: Instability in the shoulder joint, often due to ligament laxity or previous dislocations, can cause one shoulder to appear lower than the other.
  • Rotator Cuff Tears: Tears in the rotator cuff muscles, which are crucial for shoulder stability and movement, can result in changes to the shoulder’s appearance and function.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Compression of nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet region (between the neck and the shoulder) can lead to symptoms like a dropped shoulder, often associated with pain, tingling, or numbness.
  • Scoliosis: An abnormal curvature of the spine, such as scoliosis, can affect the alignment of the shoulders, causing one to appear lower than the other.
  • Trauma or Injury: Previous trauma or injury to the shoulder, collarbone, or surrounding structures can lead to changes in the shoulder’s position.
  • Muscle Tightness or Spasm: Persistent muscle tightness or spasms, possibly due to stress, overuse, or underlying conditions, can contribute to changes in shoulder posture.

It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic doctor or a physical therapist, for a thorough examination and proper diagnosis if you notice a dropped shoulder. Treatment options may include physical therapy, exercises to strengthen and balance the muscles, and, in some cases, surgical interventions. The underlying cause will determine the most appropriate course of action for addressing the dropped shoulder.