A shoulder separation is the partial or complete separation of two parts of the shoulder: the collarbone (clavicle) and the end of the shoulder blade (acromion). See a picture of shoulder separation injuries.
The collarbone and the shoulder blade (scapula) are connected by the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which is held together primarily by the acromioclavicular (AC) and the coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments. In a shoulder separation (also called an acromioclavicular joint injury), these ligaments are partially or completely torn. A shoulder separation is classified according to how severely these ligaments are injured:
There are three further classifications, types IV through VI, which are uncommon. These types of shoulder separations may involve tearing of the muscle that covers the upper arm and shoulder joint (deltoid muscle) and the one that extends from the back of the head, neck, and upper back across the back of the shoulder (trapezius muscle).
A direct blow to the top of the shoulder or a fall onto the shoulder, such as a fall from a bicycle, can cause a shoulder separation.
Signs and symptoms of a shoulder separation include:
A shoulder separation is diagnosed through a medical history, a physical exam, and an X-ray.
Your doctor will check:
Your doctor will probably X-ray your injured shoulder and possibly your uninjured shoulder to help diagnose the severity of the separation.
Treatment of a shoulder separation depends on its severity. For a type I or II injury, you support your shoulder with a sling. You typically need the sling until the discomfort decreases (a few days to a week). Early physical therapy to strengthen your shoulder and regain range of motion is important for recovery and to prevent frozen shoulder, a condition that limits shoulder motion (adhesive capsulitis). You can return to normal exercises and activities as your pain and other symptoms go away.
Treatment for type III injuries is controversial. Some doctors treat them with a sling and physical therapy, while others feel surgery may be needed.
Type IV through VI injuries should be evaluated for possible surgery.
To help relieve pain, put ice on the affected area and take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
|American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)|
|6300 North River Road|
|Rosemont, IL 60018-4262|
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury prevention, and wellness and exercise.
|American Physical Therapy Association|
|1111 North Fairfax Street|
|Alexandria, VA 22314-1488|
The American Physical Therapy Association is a national organization representing nearly 70,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research. The APTA also provides information and education to the public about physical therapy and how it is used to treat certain conditions.
|National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), National Institutes of Health|
|1 AMS Circle|
|Bethesda, MD 20892-3675|
|Phone:||1-877-22-NIAMS (1-877-226-4267) toll-free|
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is a governmental institute that serves the public and health professionals by providing information, locating other information sources, and participating in a national federal database of health information. NIAMS supports research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases and supports the training of scientists to carry out this research.
The NIAMS website provides health information referrals to the NIAMS Clearinghouse, which has information packages about diseases.
Other Works Consulted
- McMahon PJ, Kaplan LD (2006). Acromioclavicular joint injury section of Sports medicine. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed, pp. 212–213. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Mercier LR (2008). Acromioclavicular dislocation section of The shoulder. In Practical Orthopedics, 6th ed, pp. 75–76. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery|
|Last Revised||August 29, 2011|
Last Revised: August 29, 2011
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