AC Joint Sprain Recovery Time

An AC joint sprain generally refers to an injury to the ligaments of the AC joint that is mild enough that even though there is tearing of the ligaments there is no displacement of the joint itself.  This is the definition of a Grade 1 AC joint separation.

Initial Treatment

Initial treatment should consist of ice and rest.  A sling is recommended for comfort but should be discontinued as soon as the initial discomfort allows.  This usually takes one or two weeks.  Anti-inflammatory medication and, if necessary, narcotic medication can help reduce initial discomfort.  As soon as the pain begins subsiding it is important to begin a rehabilitation program to restore strength and motion with gentle exercises that progress over time.

 

Return to full activity can be allowed once there is a full and painless range of motion, and no tenderness about the joint.  This can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.  If significant pain does not subside within the first month then it is important to seek advice from an orthopedic surgeon as this may represent either a more severe injury to the AC joint or perhaps an injury to a different part of the shoulder joint that was not initially diagnosed.  In these cases additional imaging such as a CT scan or MRI may be necessary.