acromioclavicular clavicle acromion la peerAcromioclavicular (AC) joint separation, commonly referred to as shoulder separation, is an injury to the area connecting the clavicle (collarbone) with the scapula (shoulder blade). AC joint injury often occurs during contact sports events during falling, or as a result of some traumatic blow to the shoulder.

The team of shoulder specialists at the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence is committed to providing comprehensive care for shoulder conditions. Our orthopedic surgeons are highly experienced at treating structural injuries to the shoulder and offer the latest and most effective treatment for all types of acromioclavicular joint separation. Contact us for more information about treating acromioclavicular joint injury today.

What Is the AC Joint?

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is a joint at the top of the shoulder that is comprised mainly of two major ligaments and four accessory ligaments. It connects the clavicle (collarbone) with the acromion (upper end of the scapula, or shoulder blade), and one of the main support bones of the shoulder girdle. The acromioclavicular joint can be very vulnerable to certain types of injury. Impacts to the shoulder (from a fall or a blow to the area) can often affect or damage the acromioclavicular joint.

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What Are the Symptoms of AC Joint Separation?

AC joint separation is often caused by a specific event involving a traumatic blow to the top of the shoulder or a fall onto an outstretched hand. The most common symptoms of acromioclavicular joint separation are severe pain and numbness to the area or the arm on that side. Swelling may occur shortly thereafter. Other symptoms of a separation may include:

  • Shoulder or arm weakness
  • Shoulder bruising
  • Limited range-of-motion in the shoulder
  • A (painful) bump at the top of the shoulder

Types of Acromioclavicular Joint Injuries

Separated shoulders are graded according to the severity of the injury and the position of the displaced bones. Treatment for acromioclavicular joint injury largely depends on the severity of bone displacement and soft tissue damage. acromioclavicular joint injuries are typically classified on a six-point scale, from minor to major, and depending on how the structures are affected.

What Treatments Are Available for Acromioclavicular Joint Separation?

Acromioclavicular joint repair treatments can vary according to the type and severity of injury, and also the age and physical status of the patient, his or her medical history, and personal preferences. Non-displaced injuries may require only rest, ice, and then a gradual return to activity over a 2-6 week period. Meanwhile, major dislocations often require surgical fixation to preserve long-term stability and function of the shoulder. At the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence, our team of shoulder specialists is experienced in treating the entire spectrum of acromioclavicular joint injuries.

During an AC joint injury, ligaments attaching the clavicle to the shoulder blade can become partially or completely torn. Left untreated, these damaged ligaments can cause pain and dysfunction in the acromioclavicular joint area.

For more severe acromioclavicular joint injury, open shoulder surgery may be necessary in order to repair damage sustained to the joint. The ultimate goal of surgery is to restore painless function to the injured AC joint.

Recovery from AC Joint Surgery

Post-surgical treatment for an acromioclavicular joint separation can depend upon the extent of surgical intervention. After surgery, patients typically undergo a rigorous physical therapy rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation is necessary in order to maximize recovery of function, strength, and stability in the AC joint.

At the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence, our top priority is to provide exceptional results for our patients within a comfortable environment. Our orthopedic surgeons are experts in arthroscopic shoulder surgery and will formulate an individualized recovery plan if surgical repair of an AC joint separation is necessary.

Contact a Shoulder Surgeon in LA

The Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence is a team of experienced orthopedic surgeons specializing in the comprehensive treatment of shoulder injuries and chronic shoulder joint conditions. If you have specific questions about AC joint injury, or have been experiencing shoulder pain, you can contact us by calling (888) 847-0357.

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Please read this article on shoulder separation on the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Next, read about biceps injuries.