Shoulder Separation (AC Joint Separation)
Shoulder separations and shoulder dislocations are often mistakenly considered the same type of shoulder injury. Despite their similarities, they are two separate and unique injuries.
Shoulder separations are termed Acromioclavicular (AC) joint separations, named for the shoulder joint where the end of the collarbone (clavicle) meets the acromion of the scapula (shoulder blade). It is at this juncture that shoulder separations occur.
This injury is usually the result of a traumatic injury. When force such as a fall is applied directly to the top or side of the shoulder, the AC joint is placed under extreme stress. If the stress is strong enough, the force will actually damage and separate the AC joint, leaving the shoulder disfigured or “separated”. The strong ligaments that holed the joint together are often severely damaged.
There are several classifications for diagnosing the severity of a shoulder separation, and the type of treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. In most cases, the best treatment involves a slow and conservative treatment approach. Treatment will often involve immediate support of the extremity in a sling or similar brace to allow for AC joint healing. As the pain lessens and healing progresses, therapy will usually be prescribed to help regain lost motion and to strengthen the injured arm.
More severe cases may require surgery to repair the AC joint. As healing progresses, rehabilitation will typically be prescribed to help regain full function.
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