AC Joint Separation
(Acromioclavicular Joint Separation; Shoulder Separation)
How to Say It: A-C Joy-N-T Sep-ar-a-shun
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
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.
This problem is caused by a trauma to the shoulder, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems may be:
You will be asked about your symptoms, health history, and how the injury happened. An exam will be done. It will focus on the shoulder. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
Images may be taken of your shoulder. This can be done with x-rays.
How long it takes to heal depends on how badly the joint was injured. The goals of treatment are to ease pain and swelling. Medicine can help. Other options are:
Surgery may be needed if the AC joint separation is severe. Options are:
To lower the risk of this health problem:
Ortho Info— American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injuries. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acromioclavicular-ac-joint-injuries. Accessed July 29, 2021.
Shoulder separation. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/s/shoulder-separation.html. Accessed July 29, 2021.
Shoulder separation. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/shoulder-separation. Accessed July 29, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 7/29/2021