AC Joint Injury (Shoulder Separations) - Recovery Tips
This is an injury to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, the small joint at the top of the shoulder between the acromion (tip of the shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collarbone), that typically results from a direct blow to the shoulder or landing directly on the shoulder.
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Through the stories of a dozen athletes whose injuries and recovery advanced the field (including Joan Benoit, Michael Jordan, Brandi Chastain, and Tommy John), Dr. Geier explains how sports medicine makes sports safer for the pros, amateurs, student-athletes, and weekend warriors alike.Get the Book
Frequently Asked Questions on AC Joint Injury Injuries
- +What is this injury?
-What is this injury?An acromioclavicular sprain (AC sprain) is an injury to the small joint at the top of the shoulder between the acromion (tip of the shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collarbone). The injury typically results from a direct blow to the shoulder or landing directly on the shoulder. This injury is commonly referred to as a shoulder separation.
- +What are the common treatments?
-What are the common treatments?The most common mild forms of these injuries can be treated with rest, use of a shoulder sling or immobilizer, and physical therapy. More severe AC injuries often require surgical treatment.
- +How long could it take to recover?
-How long could it take to recover?Full recovery requires time to regain full strength, motion and shoulder function. Recovery differs greatly depending on the nature of the treatment needed to fix the problem. If nonsurgical treatments are sufficient, a patient can overcome the pain and regain strength and motion in weeks. Recovery can take up to six months or more if surgery to reconstruct the AC joint is performed.
- +What should I ask my doctor?
-What should I ask my doctor?It is always a good idea to ask if surgery is necessary and if there are nonsurgical treatment options that can be tried first. If you choose to undergo surgery, understanding what restrictions the surgeon will place after surgery and what you can safely do, such as driving and working, are important. Also ask when you could expect to safely return to your sport or exercise.