The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is between the upper part of the shoulder blade and the collarbone. AC joint separation happens when the ligaments of this joint become damaged or torn. This causes a separation between the acromion and the collarbone.
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How long it takes to heal depends on how badly the joint was injured. The goals of treatment are to ease pain and swelling. Medicine can help. Other options are:
- A sling to prevent the shoulder from moving and give it time to heal
- Ice packs to ease pain and swelling
- Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion
Surgery may be needed if the AC joint separation is severe. Options are:
- Trimming back the end of the collarbone so that it does not rub against the shoulder blade
- Reconstructing the ligaments that attach to the underside of the collarbone
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Acromioclavicular Joint Separation; Shoulder Separation)
Ortho Info— American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org
Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injuries. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acromioclavicular-ac-joint-injuries. Accessed July 29, 2021.
Shoulder separation. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/s/shoulder-separation.html. Accessed July 29, 2021.
Shoulder separation. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/shoulder-separation. Accessed July 29, 2021.