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The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is between the upper part of the shoulder blade and the collarbone. AC joint separation happens when the ligaments of this joint become damaged or torn. This causes a separation between the acromion and the collarbone.
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AC joint separation is caused by a trauma to the shoulder such as:
Factors that may increase your chance of an AC joint separation include:
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms, medical history, and related accident. A physical exam will be done. It may include range-of-motion tests of the shoulder. The diagnosis can be made when there is an obvious deformity of the joint.
Images may be taken of your shoulder. This can be done with x-rays.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment depends on the degree of your AC joint separation. Options include:
A support, such as a sling, will be given to prevent the shoulder from moving and reduce pain as it heals. Applying an ice pack will also help reduce swelling and promote proper healing.
Your doctor may also advise over-the-counter or prescription pain medication.
Surgery may be needed if the AC joint separation is severe. Surgical options include:
You may be referred to a physical therapist to learn exercises to strengthen and/or stabilize the area.
To help reduce your chance of AC joint separation:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home:
Ortho Info— American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
The AC (acromioclavicular) joint. Southern California Orthopedic Institute website. Available at: http://www.scoi.com/patient-resources/patient-education/ac-acromioclavicular-joint. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint separation. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Orthopaedic-Center/Clinical-Programs/Sports-Medicine/Acromioclavicular-AC-Joint-Separation.aspx. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injuries. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114040/Acromioclavicular-AC-joint-injuries. Updated January 20, 2017. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Acromioclavicular joint separation. Orthogate website. Available at: http://www.orthogate.org/patient-education/shoulder/acromioclavicular-joint-separation. Published July 20, 2006. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Shoulder separation. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00033. Updated October 2007. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 12/26/2018