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Acromioclavicular Joint / Shoulder Separation / A/C Separation


This is an injury of the acromioclavicular joint(commonly called the “AC” joint). This is the joint where the clavicle meets the scapula. A shoulder separation is a stretching or a tearing of the ligaments that support these bones. This allows the bones to move out of position.


Shoulder Separation

Causes & Triggers

A separated shoulder is most commonly caused by traumatic injury. It can happen if you fall on your shoulder, or if you are struck on the point of your shoulder. Athletes who play contact sports such as football and hockey are susceptible to this injury. So are skiers and gymnasts.

  • Accident (especially motor vehicle)
  • Fall
  • Sports injury

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms may include pain and weakness in your shoulder. You may not be able to move your shoulder through its full range of motion. You may have bruising and swelling. Your shifted clavicle may create a visible bump beneath your skin.

  • Apparent deformity or misalignment
  • Pain

Tips & Treatment

Treatment options include rest, ice and medications. Your arm may be placed in a sling. You may benefit from physical therapy. A severe injury may require surgical repair. Your healthcare provider can create a care plan that is right for your needs.

  • Weakness, numbness or cold fingers may be signs of a more serious injury.
  • Although this injury usually does not require surgery, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Treatment may involve non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication, slinging or splinting, and icing affected areas.
  • Surgical intervention may be necessary if there is significant deformity or ligament injury.

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