Acromioclavicular Osteoarthritis (OA)2019-12-19T12:10:34-05:00

Acromioclavicular Osteoarthritis (OA)


What is Acromioclavicular OA?

The acromioclavicular joint, also known as the AC joint, is located at the top of the shoulder where the clavicle meets the top part of the shoulder blade. The acromioclavicular (AC) joint in the shoulder is a common spot for osteoarthritis to develop in middle age. Degeneration of the AC joint can be painful and can cause difficulty using the shoulder for everyday activities.

Overuse or previous trauma can be related to developing AC OA. The AC joint is under constant stress as the arm is used overhead. Weightlifters and others who repeatedly lift heavy amounts of weight overhead tend to have an increased occurrence of the condition, and often at a younger age.

Symptoms of Acromioclavicular OA

The symptoms of acromioclavicular osteoarthritis are similar to osteoarthritis in other joints.

  • Joint pain and tenderness.
  • Swelling.
  • Pain with certain movements.
  • Pain exacerbated by inactivity.
  • Popping.

A few causes of acromioclavicular OA include: age, joint trauma, joint stress and chronic overuse. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that is worsened by the loss of cartilage in a joint and the inflammation and swelling caused by friction between bones.

Non-surgical Treatment for OA

There are many treatment options for patients suffering with osteoarthritis. Depending on the severity of your condition, how much cartilage remains, and your lifestyle requirements, treatment can begin with periodic rest. As each treatment becomes less effective, we can progress to the next level of treatment such as:

  • Activity modification.
  • Warm and cold compresses.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Physical therapy combined with strengthening exercises.
  • Steroid injections.

Surgical Treatment for OA

For patients suffering from advanced stage osteoarthritis, the following treatments are generally recommended:

  • Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that removes loose pieces of damaged cartilage. 
  • A distal clavicle excision can restore the normal space at the AC joint relieving pain and restoring function.

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