AC Joint Injury

AC Shoulder Joint Injury is Also Called Separated Shoulder

What is an AC Shoulder Joint Injury?

An acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) injury, also called a separated shoulder, occurs in the junction between the highest point of the shoulder (acromion) and the collarbone (clavicle.) Shoulder separation is completely different from a shoulder dislocation – where the arm bone (humerus) is displaced from the shoulder socket (glenoid.) A separated shoulder occurs when the ligaments connecting the AC joint are injured and the acromion moves away from the clavicle.

An AC joint injury is quite common and is usually caused from direct trauma to the shoulder, such as blunt force during sports or a hard fall directly on the shoulder.

What are the Symptoms of a Separated Shoulder?

  • Intense pain as soon as the injury occurs
  • Joint pain ranging from mild tenderness to intense, sharp pain felt primarily on the top of the shoulder
  • Bruising and swelling in the shoulder
  • Weakness
  • Visible deformity

AC shoulder joint injuries can range from a mild sprain with no visible change in the shoulder to a very large bump, created when the ligaments are torn. In severe cases, a bump or bulge can be seen above the shoulder when the collar bone separates from the shoulder blade. Orthopedic shoulder specialist, Dr. James Mazzara has been treating AC Joint injuries and shoulder separation for patients in Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities for 27 years. He is highly skilled at repairing this condition and helping patients return to their normal activities.

Do I Have an AC Joint Injury?

A separated shoulder can be simple to diagnose when it causes a physical deformity. If there is not a deformity, but a separation is suspected, Dr. Mazzara will perform a physical examination to locate the area of discomfort and estimate the damage to the joint. X-rays and an MRI may be utilized to see the extent of damage, if there is a fracture and which ligaments are involved in the injury.

Have you sustained an AC joint injury?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Mazzara:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Mazzara.

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Mazzara.

Request Case Review or Office Consultation

How is a Separated Shoulder Treated?

Non-surgical treatment, such as ice, rest, medication and a shoulder sling to minimize the pain, are often used. It is often worthwhile to wait to see if reasonable function returns and pain diminishes without surgical intervention.

What are Surgical Treatment Options for an AC Joint Injury?

AC injuries are graded from mild to severe. Grade 1, or non-surgical sprains and strains do not often require surgery. For patients in the Manchester, South Windsor, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities with higher grade joint separations, surgery may be needed. Dr. Mazzara can guide the patient’s decision for surgery, based on their overall goals and activity level. Early diagnosis and treatment may allow Dr Mazzara to repair the separated shoulder with special Kevlar sutures and anchors so that your own ligaments heal more naturally without the need for tendon grafts.

Dr. Mazzara commonly uses arthroscopic assisted AC joint stabilization to repair the separation of the clavicle from the shoulder blade and stabilize the joint. This procedure is minimally invasive, using small incisions, a small camera and special surgical instruments to operate inside the shoulder. The AC joint is reconstructed using a ligament graft and sutures to restore stability. Patient results are most favorable when followed by a physical therapy program.

If you have any questions regarding AC Joint Injury, separated shoulder or other shoulder conditions, please contact the offices of shoulder specialist, James Mazzara, MD, located in Manchester, South Windsor, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities.

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