Acromioclavicular Joint Arthritis

Acromioclavicular joint arthritis is a common “wear and tear” arthritis that affects the joint at the top of the shoulder. The AC joint is located where the bony protrusion called the acromion meets the clavicle, acting as a pivot point when raising the arm above the head. Degeneration of the AC joint can be painful and impacts shoulder use in everyday activities.


Although the exact cause of AC joint arthritis is unknown, we do know this is a “wear and tear” arthritis that is most common in people over the age of 50. It is also more common in women. People who repeatedly lift heavy objects above the head are more likely to experience AC joint arthritis at a younger age. It can also develop following an injury, such as a fall.


In the early stages, symptoms are usually only minor pain or tenderness in the front of the shoulder near the joint. Pain will worsen progressively, especially as the joint experiences repeated use. A grinding or clicking sensation when moving the joint is also common.


Physicians will assess symptoms and medical history in order to properly diagnose acromioclavicular joint arthritis. A physical examination will identify pain, tenderness, and restricted range of motion. X-rays may also be used to indicate degeneration of the joint.


In most cases, acromioclavicular joint arthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, physical therapy, and reducing activities that trigger symptoms. If conservative measures do not bring relief, surgery may be required.

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