Distal Clavicular Osteolysis (Weightlifter’s Shoulder)

Distal clavicular osteolysis, also known as weightlifter’s shoulder, is an injury that affects the clavicle (collarbone). As the name suggests, this condition is common in weighlifers and from overuse. When this occurs, small fractures form along the collarbone. Eventually the bones will erode in the AC joint, which connects the collarbone to the shoulder blade.


Weightlifter’s shoulder is caused by repetitive stress from heavy lifting or repetitive shoulder movements. Small fractures develop and usually do not have enough time to heal. This results in an injury that gets progressively worse and eventually breaks down and dissolves the bones.


The most common symptom of weightlifter’s shoulder is an aching pain in the front of the shoulder. Pain is usually present during and after activity, and worsens when reaching across the body. It can also keep you up at night because it is painful to lie on the injury.


Physicians will assess symptoms and the results of a physical exam to develop an effective treatment plan. Some of the factors considered include pain and tenderness when pressure is applied to the top of the shoulder and swelling at the collarbone. Imaging tests may also be used to identify damage to the shoulder.


Weightlifter’s shoulder usually responds favorably to conservative treatments such as rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy. If pain persists, minimally invasive surgery may resolve distal clavicular osteolysis.

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