Shoulder Separation Injury

Suffering from a Shoulder Separation Injury? Get Help Today, and Get Back Into The Game!

Are you physically active? That’s great. Physical activity makes you stronger, healthier and can help people live longer. But it also can also expose you to certain risks, such as an acromioclavicular joint separation or the more common AC separation. What happens in this injury is that the clavicle (aka the collar bone) separates from the scapula (shoulder blade). To picture how this could happen, imagine a cyclist moving at high speed when they hit a rock or some other obstacle that causes them to fall right over their handlebars.


Immediate First Aid Treatment

If you have a suspected AC joint separation, the immediate first aid treatment is to apply the principles of RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Apply ice (never directly to the skin) and apply pressure via a compression wrap to minimalize pain and swelling. Wear a sling to immobilize the shoulder and ease pain by taking the weight off the arm.

A commonly prescribed immediate treatment is to be given an anti-inflammatory drug to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as diagnose the injury. If a bad AC joint injury is not properly treated it can lead to long-term deformity in the form of a lump on top of the shoulder.


What are the Classifications of an Injury?

AC injuries are classified in three grades ranging from simple but mild dislocation to complete separation.

  • Grade I – The most common type of injury to the AC joint is a slight displacement of the joint. The ligament may be stretched or partially torn.
  • Grade II – The displacement may not be that obvious during a physical examination, but what has happened is a partial dislocation. The acromioclavicular ligament is completely torn, while the coracoclavicular ligaments remain intact.
  • Grade III – A full separation of the joint – the previously discussed AC joint separation. The acromioclavicular ligament, the coracoclavicular ligaments and the capsule surrounding the joint are torn. This type of displacement is typically obvious on a simple/clinical exam – what happens is the shoulder falls under the weight of the arm it’s supporting and the clavicle is pushed up, forming a very noticeable bump on the shoulder. AC separations are themselves graded into six degrees of severity, with Grade I-III the most common and grades IV-VI all treated surgically because of the severe disruption of the ligamentous support for the shoulder and arm.


The Recovery Process

Surgical recovery time/programs of the AC joint vary depending on the type of surgery performed. General recommendations/advice includes:

  • Using a sling for about 4 weeks
  • Physical therapy and lower arm exercises (once the doctor clears you) can help you regain your mobility
  • Do not live for several weeks and avoid/limit overhead motion in the early recovery periods
  • Plan on at least 6 – 8 weeks of physical therapy
  • For athletes, please note that strength and velocity motions of the throwing athlete may be delayed for 4 – 6 months.

If you would like to discuss your AC injury anywhere in the Manatee or Sarasota Counties of Florida, look no further than Coastal Orthopedics Sports Medicine & Pain Management. We have an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in shoulder and elbow injuries. Our physicians look forward to helping you get back to your favorite sport or activity as fast as safety allows.



Suffering from a Shoulder Separation Injury? Contact a Specialist Today

Or contact our office today at (941)792-1404


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