Acromioclavicular Joint Separation

Acromioclavicular joint separation is an injury to the “AC” joint that occurs when the clavicle (collarbone) separates from the scapula (shoulder bone). AC joint separation usually happens after a fall on the “point” of the shoulder or from a hard, direct impact.


Traumatic injury is almost always the cause of an AC joint separation. Falling on the “point” of the shoulder or an outstretched hand is common. Direct blows to the shoulder from football, hockey, skiing, or gymnastics are also likely to result in AC joint separation.


Pain, swelling, and weakness in the joint and arm are usually symptoms. Range of motion in the shoulder may be impacted. If the clavicle shifted, a visible bump may form under the skin where the clavicle ends on the shoulder.


Acromioclavicular joint separation injuries are usually easy to diagnose based on symptoms and how the injury took place. A physical exam will allow physicians to view external factors and x-rays may also be used to confirm an AC joint separation, ensuring fractures or other injuries are not present.


Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications are usually effective in treating acromioclavicular joint separations. A sling may be required in some cases to immobilize the arm. Physical therapy can restore range of motion and strength in the shoulder. In severe AC joint separation injuries, surgery may be required.

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