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What is AC Joint Separation?

AC joint separation, also known as shoulder separation, is a condition characterized by damage to the ligaments that connect the acromion to the collar bone. As a result, the bones do not line up properly, causing joint pain and instability.

Causes of AC Joint Separation

Causes include:

  • A fall on the shoulder
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • A sports injury
  • Repetitive overhead activity 

Symptoms of AC Joint Separation

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Weakness in the arm or shoulder
  • Loss of motion
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

Diagnosis of AC Joint Separation

Diagnosis can be made based on discussion of your symptoms and a physical examination of the shoulder. A shoulder X-ray may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis of AC joint separation.

Treatment for AC Joint Separation

Conservative treatment is usually effective, but in cases of a severely unstable joint, surgery is required. The treatment methods include:

Conservative method:

  • Medications: You will be provided with anti-inflammatory pain medications to reduce swelling.
  • Rest: You will be instructed to avoid activities that provoke pain and to make use of a sling to immobilize your shoulder and arm.
  • Ice: An ice pack can be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises can be done to help strengthen the shoulder muscles.

Surgery:

Your doctor will make small incisions through which specialized instruments can be inserted to repair and reattach torn ligaments and stabilize the bones.

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  • American College of Physicians
  • Andrews Research & Education Foundation
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • JJM Medical College