Acromioclavicular Separations2019-12-19T12:10:50-05:00

Acromioclavicular Separations


What is  Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Separation?

An acromioclavicular (AC) joint separation is also known as the separation of the collarbone from the shoulder blade. The collarbone (clavicle) and the shoulder blade (scapula) come together to form the AC joint.

An AC joint separation is typically caused by falling on a hard surface, being hit on the point of the shoulder blade or by a weight bearing fall on an outstretched arm. It can happen from a fall on ice, playing a contact sport such as football or falling off a bike.

Symptoms of Acromioclavicular Separations (AC Joint Separations)

An AC joint separation can render the shoulder unstable and painful. The pain is particularly intense when reaching overhead or sleeping on the affected side. Some bruising may be present; depending on how severe the joint separation is, there may also be swelling. Other symptoms include:

  • The collar bone may move when pressed.
  • A bump or deformity on top of the shoulder.
  • The injured person may instinctively support his or her elbow and hold his or her arm in, close to the body.
  • A “popping” sound when the joint moves.

Treatment of AC Separations

Most patients will experience a full recovery after conservative treatment. A minor separation may heal within a few weeks. A more severe separation may take several weeks to months to heal. You may have a noticeable bump on the affected shoulder; however, it should not affect your ability to use that shoulder.


Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), as well as anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) may help ease shoulder pain.


Conservative therapy for a shoulder separation is much like therapy for other joint injuries. The following treatment modalities are usually recommended:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that aggravate your shoulder pain, especially crossing the affected arm in front of your body. Temporarily immobilizing your arm in a sling to take pressure off your shoulder typically promotes healing.
  • Ice. Ice can reduce shoulder pain and swelling. Use a cold pack for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Physical therapy. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help restore strength and range of motion in your shoulder.

Surgical and other procedures

If pain persists or if you have a severe separation, surgery might be an option. Surgery can repair or reconstruct the torn ligaments and restabilize the AC joint.

Ready to Get Back in the Game?

Request an Appointment Online