AC Joint Injury

An AC joint injury refers to damage or sprain of the acromioclavicular joint, located at the top of the shoulder. It is commonly caused by direct impact or trauma to the shoulder.

AC Joint Injury
AC Joint Injury
Anchor Health and Performance Icon
is this treatment right for you?

Your Guide to Understanding AC Joint Injury

What is AC Joint Injury?

An AC joint injury, also known as acromioclavicular joint injury, occurs when there is damage or sprain to the acromioclavicular joint, which is located at the top of the shoulder. This joint connects the collarbone (clavicle) to the highest point of the shoulder blade (acromion).

AC joint injuries commonly result from direct impact or trauma to the shoulder, such as falls, sports-related collisions, or accidents. Symptoms of an AC joint injury typically include pain, swelling, and limited range of motion in the shoulder area.

The severity of the symptoms can vary depending on the extent of the injury. In milder cases, there may be mild discomfort and tenderness around the AC joint, with minimal impact on shoulder movement. In more severe cases, the pain can be intense, accompanied by significant swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the shoulder.

How can Physiotherapy help treat AC Joint Injury?

Physiotherapy services play a vital role in alleviating AC joint injuries, also known as shoulder separations. Physiotherapists assess the severity of the injury and develop personalized treatment plans.

They utilize various techniques, such as manual therapy, to reduce pain and swelling in the affected area. Physiotherapists also provide targeted exercises to improve strength, stability, and range of motion in the shoulder joint. By addressing the underlying causes and providing specific rehabilitation protocols, physiotherapy helps individuals recover from AC joint injuries and regain optimal shoulder function.

What causes AC Joint Injury?

AC joint injuries are typically caused by direct impact or trauma to the shoulder area. Common causes include falls, sports-related collisions, car accidents, and other incidents where there is a forceful blow to the shoulder. The injury occurs when the acromioclavicular joint, which connects the collarbone (clavicle) to the highest point of the shoulder blade (acromion), is damaged or sprained.

For example, in a fall, if someone lands on an outstretched hand or directly onto their shoulder, it can put excessive pressure on the AC joint and lead to injury. Similarly, a collision during contact sports or a car accident can cause the shoulder to be forcefully struck, resulting in an AC joint injury.

What treatments might help AC Joint Injury?

The treatment for AC joint injury aims to improve the condition and promote healing. Here are some ways treatment can help improve AC joint injury:

Rest

Resting the affected shoulder is crucial to allow the injured joint to heal. Avoid activities that may put strain or stress on the joint, giving it time to recover.

Ice Application

Applying ice to the injured area can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. Use an ice pack or wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the shoulder for around 15 minutes at a time.

Immobilization

Using a sling or other supportive devices can help immobilize the shoulder joint and provide stability during the healing process. It helps prevent unnecessary movement and allows the injured AC joint to heal properly.

Pain Management

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help manage pain and reduce inflammation associated with AC joint injury.

Physical Therapy

In more severe cases or as part of the rehabilitation process, physical therapy may be recommended. Physical therapists can guide you through specific exercises and techniques to improve shoulder strength, range of motion, and overall function. They may also incorporate modalities such as heat therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation to aid in recovery.

Surgery (For Severe Cases)

For severe AC joint injuries or cases where conservative treatments do not provide adequate relief, surgery may be considered. Surgical interventions aim to reconstruct or stabilize the joint, allowing for proper healing and improved function.

Signs of AC Joint Injury:

Signs of an AC joint injury may include:

Shoulder Pain

Pain in the shoulder area, specifically around the top of the shoulder where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade, is a common symptom of an AC joint injury. The pain may range from mild to severe and can be aggravated by movement or pressure on the affected area.

Swelling

AC joint injuries often cause swelling around the shoulder joint. This swelling can make the area appear larger or more rounded than usual and may be accompanied by tenderness when touched.

Limited Range of Motion

AC joint injuries can restrict the normal range of motion in the shoulder. You may find it difficult to lift your arm fully overhead, reach across your body, or perform certain movements without experiencing pain or discomfort.

Bruising

In some cases, bruising may develop around the AC joint after an injury. This discoloration of the skin is caused by small blood vessels rupturing as a result of the trauma.

A Noticeable Bump

In more severe AC joint injuries, such as a complete separation of the joint, a visible bump or prominence may be present at the top of the shoulder. This is due to the displacement of the collarbone from its normal position.

Symptoms of AC Joint Injury:

Symptoms of an AC joint injury may include:

Shoulder Pain

You may experience pain in your shoulder, specifically around the top where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. The pain can range from mild to severe and may worsen when you move your shoulder or put pressure on the area.

Swelling

An AC joint injury can cause swelling in the shoulder joint. This swelling may make the area look larger or feel tender to the touch.

Limited Range of <otion

AC joint injuries can limit your shoulder's normal range of motion. You might find it difficult to raise your arm fully overhead, reach across your body, or perform certain movements without feeling pain or discomfort.

Discomfort During Activities

Everyday activities that involve using the shoulder, such as lifting objects, reaching for items, or performing overhead tasks, may become challenging and uncomfortable.

Bruising

In some cases, bruising may develop around the AC joint. This occurs when small blood vessels under the skin rupture due to the injury, resulting in discoloration.

Chiropractic
Physiotherapy
Chiropractic
Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy
Anchor Health and Performance Icon
is this treatment right for you?

When is the right time to see a Physiotherapist for AC Joint Injury?

It is recommended to see a physiotherapist for an AC joint injury as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Seeking prompt professional evaluation and treatment can help prevent further damage, manage pain, and promote a faster recovery.

If you experience symptoms such as persistent shoulder pain, swelling, limited range of motion, or difficulty performing everyday activities, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with one of these healthcare professionals. They have the expertise to assess your condition, provide an accurate diagnosis, and develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Meet our Lead Registered Physiotherapist

Brittany Pereira

Brittany Pereira

Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist with a degree from the University of Toronto

Brittany enjoys working with patients across age groups and backgrounds to help them move better, get stronger, understand their bodies and ultimately, feel more confident. She combines her knowledge and clinical experience to best serve her patients.

Anchor Health and Performance Icon

The Anchor Difference

PATIENT-DRIVEN CARE

ONE-ON-ONE TREATMENTS

EVIDENCE-INFORMED PLANS

are you ready to move and feel better?

book your appointment today

Let's address your AC Joint Injury concerns together!

Physiotherapist Brittany Pereira working with client at Anchor Health and Performance Clinic Mississauga
Interior Lobby at Anchor Health and Performance Clinic in Mississauga