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AC Joint Injury

General Description:

Acromioclavicular joint injuries are more commonly known as AC Joint injuries, and are often caused by intense contact sports, bicycle wrecks, and car accidents. The acromioclavicular joint  can be found at the top of the shoulder which is where the acromion process and the clavicle meet to form a connecting joint. This joint is surrounded by several ligaments, and depending on the severity of the injury, one or all of the ligaments may be torn. Torn ligaments are what cause acromioclavicular joint sprains and separations.

Typical Treatment:

All AC Joint injuries are treated on a case-by-case basis. At the very least, you will wear a sling for a few days until the pain subsides. You should also ice your shoulder for 20 minutes, 3-4 times a day during the first 48 hours. It is also helpful to use a pain reliever. It’s likely your doctor be prescribed physical therapy to return your original motion, strength, and flexibility. You will be able to return to your original activities once the pain subsides. If you participate in sports you will be able to return once your have full range of motion and good strength on your shoulder. You may be advised to wear specially designed protective devices, or padding under uniforms. Surgery is rarely needed and is only performed in the most severe of AC Joint injuries.

Causes:

Separated shoulders are common injuries among contact athletes like hockey and football players. However, it can happen to anyone who falls and lands on the tip of their shoulder or elbow.  This can result in an injury to the muscles, tendons and ligaments that hold the bones in your shoulder together.

How to Prevent It:

Prevention of AC joint injuries generally consists of early diagnosis of the problem and avoidance of intense contact accidents, if possible. Football shoulder pads do somewhat decrease the extent of an injury, but they do not prevent acromioclavicular injuries.