An AC joint separation, also known as a separated shoulder, is a common injury that occurs when the collarbone (clavicle) separates from the shoulder blade (scapula). This type of injury is often caused by a fall directly onto the shoulder or a blow to the shoulder area. Athletes participating in contact sports, such as football or hockey, are at a higher risk for this injury.

AC Joint Separation 101

The AC joint (acromioclavicular joint) facilitates articulation between the medial end of the acromion and the clavicle’s distal (lateral) end. The AC joint is located above the actual shoulder joint and is smaller, with a limited range of motion. However small, it is critical for connecting the arm and the axial skeleton.

The AC joint is encircled and stabilized by a thick ligament called the AC joint capsule. This is typically the first ligament to become damaged in an AC joint separation injury. When an AC joint separation occurs, the ligaments that hold the collarbone and shoulder blade together are torn. Depending on the severity of the injury, the collarbone may partially or entirely dislocate from the shoulder blade. This can cause pain, swelling, bruising and difficulty moving the arm.

When an AC joint separation occurs, the scapula drops, creating a separation between the clavicle and the shoulder. The end of the clavicle will project noticeably, giving the impression that it has pulled upward and out of the joint. This has not occurred, but an inexperienced diagnosis may think it has and recommend inadequate treatment.

AC Joint Injury Treatment

In mild cases, rest, ice and pain medication may be enough to manage the symptoms of an AC joint separation. However, more severe cases may require medical intervention. Steven Struhl, MD, and his team at AC Joint Separation in New York may recommend a sling or brace to immobilize the shoulder and allow it to heal. He may also recommend physical therapy to help restore range of motion and strength to the injured shoulder.

Surgery may sometimes be necessary to repair the torn ligaments and reposition the collarbone. This is usually reserved for severe cases where non-surgical treatments are ineffective. Dr. Struhl often uses the Triple Endobutton Technique to prevent future shoulder instability problems and produce better surgical outcomes.

AC Joint Injury Recovery

Recovering from an AC joint separation can take several weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the injury. Following Dr. Stuhl’s instructions and avoiding activities that could reinjure the shoulder is essential during this time. With proper treatment and rehabilitation, most people with an AC joint separation can fully recover and return to normal activities.

If you suspect, you may have an AC joint separation, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is essential. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications and ensure the best possible outcome. Contact AC Joint Separation and Dr. Steve Struhl for talented and effective treatment when you suffer an AC joint injury in New York or the surrounding areas. Call 212-207-1990 in New York or 914-328-4111 in Westchester or White Plains to schedule an exam and consultation.

Posted on behalf of Steven Struhl MD