Acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) dislocation or shoulder separation is one of the most common injuries of the upper arm. It involves separation of the AC joint and injury to the ligaments that support the joint. The AC joint forms where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the shoulder blade (acromion).
It commonly occurs in athletic young patients and results from a fall directly onto the point of the shoulder. A mild shoulder separation is said to have occurred when there is AC ligament sprain that does not displace the collarbone. In more serious injury, the AC ligament tears and the coracoclavicular (CC) ligament sprains or tears slightly causing misalignment in the collarbone. In the most severe shoulder separation injury, both the AC and CC ligaments get torn and the AC joint is completely out of its position.
Symptoms of a separated shoulder may include shoulder pain, bruising or swelling, and limited shoulder movement.
The diagnosis of shoulder separation is made through a medical history, a physical exam, and an X-ray.
Conservative treatment options
Conservative treatment options include rest, cold packs, medications, and physical therapy.
Surgery may be an option if pain persists or if you have a severe separation.