AC JOINT SEPARATION

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A separated shoulder is an injury to the ligaments that hold your collarbone (clavicle) to your shoulder blade. In a mild separated shoulder, the ligaments might just be stretched. In severe injuries, ligaments might be torn.

In most people, a separated shoulder doesn't usually require surgery. Instead, conservative treatment — such as rest, ice and pain relievers — is often enough to relieve the pain. Most people regain full shoulder function within a few weeks after having a separated shoulder.

AC JOINT ANATOMY

DISEASE EXPLAINED

SYMPTOMS

Shoulder pain

Shoulder or arm weakness

Shoulder bruising or swelling

Limited shoulder movement

A bump and swelling at the top of your shoulder

CAUSES & RISK FACTORS

The most common cause of a separated shoulder is a blow to the point of your shoulder or a fall directly on your shoulder. The injury may stretch or tear the ligaments that hold your collarbone to your shoulder blade.

Participating in contact sports, such as football and hockey, or in sports that can involve falls — such as downhill skiing, gymnastics and volleyball — might put you at higher risk of a separated shoulder.

TREATMENT

TREATMENT OPTIONS

NON-SURGICAL
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), may help ease shoulder pain.

Rest. Avoid activities that aggravate your shoulder pain, especially crossing the affected arm in front of your body. You might want to temporarily immobilize your arm in a sling to take pressure off your shoulder and promote healing.

Ice. Ice can reduce shoulder pain and swelling. Use a cold pack for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Physical therapy. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help restore strength and motion in your shoulder.

SURGERY
If pain persists or if you have a severe separation or fracture of the clavicle, surgery might be an option. Surgery can reconnect torn ligaments and reposition or stabilize injured bones.

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