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AC Joint Injury

What is AC Joint Injury?

Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injury is a very common injury among physically active people. In this injury, the clavicle (collar bone) separates from the scapula (shoulder blade). It commonly caused by a fall directly on the ‘point’ of the shoulder or a direct blow received in a contact sport.

Is a shoulder separation the same as shoulder dislocation?

No. shoulder separation occurs at the junction between the clavicle (collar bone) and the scapula (shoulder blade), while a shoulder dislocation occurs at the junction between the clavicle (collar bone), the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus (arm bone).

Do I need surgery for AC Joint injury?

Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery may be needed. Surgery is also an option for those who do not respond to non-operative treatments. Grade I to III injury severity respond to physiotherapy treatments while grade IV, V and VI would generally require surgery. When surgery is however, recommended, physiotherapy is very highly recommended post-surgery for a full recovery.

How do I know I have AC Joint Injury?

  • Pain at the top of the shoulder, aggravated by heavy lifting, overhead or across the body movements.

  • Swelling and/or bruising.

  • Loss of shoulder movement.

  • Some people may present with a hard, visible lump at the top of the shoulder, indicating displacement of the clavicle (collar bone).

  • The joint may be very unstable.

How will physiotherapy help my AC Joint injury?

A Physiotherapist’s goals of treatment will be to:

  • Reduce pain and inflammation

  • Improve your joint range of movement

  • Increase the shoulder muscle strength

  • Improve your shoulder blade and collar bone alignment

  • Improve your muscle length

  • Improve your upper limb proprioception

  • Improve your technique and function especially when lifting or doing overhead activities

  • Minimise your chance of reinjury as you return to work or sport

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