AC Joint Arthritis

Dr Marcus Chia - Shoulder Surgeon

Learn about AC joint arthritis causes and treatment options.

What is AC joint arthritis?

AC joint arthritis is a type of shoulder arthritis that affects the acromioclavicular joint or AC joint. The AC joint is in the shoulder, where the clavicle (collarbone) and scapula (shoulder blade) meet. Between these bones, there is cartilage which is tissue that allows the bones to move on each other. Over time, with wear and tear, this tissue becomes thin or disappears.

AC joint arthritis is one of the most common AC joint conditions, along with fractures and separations. There are different types of AC joint arthritis, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Post traumatic arthritis

What are the symptoms of AC joint arthritis?

If you have AC joint arthritis, you may notice:

  • General shoulder pain
  • Shoulder tenderness
  • Pain that worsens when your arm crosses your chest
  • A bump or lump over the joint in the affected shoulder
  • Clicking, snapping or popping when you move your shoulder.

What causes AC joint arthritis?

The two main causes of AC joint arthritis are:

  • Wear and tear – repeatedly using your arm and shoulder places stress on the joint, wearing down the cartilage over time, eventually causing arthritis
  • Old injuries – prior injuries can increase pressure on the joint and lead to arthritis.

Activities that cause wear and tear of the AC join include:

  • Constant overhead lifting
  • Repeated sporting injuries
  • Blunt force trauma accidents.

How do I know if I have AC joint arthritis?

To determine if your shoulder injury is AC joint arthritis, Dr Chia will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination. He will check your shoulder and may ask you to take an X-ray, CT or MRI scan to rule out other conditions.

If you are diagnosed with AC joint arthritis, Dr Chia will discuss your treatment options and next steps.

What are the treatment options for AC joint arthritis?

There are both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for AC joint arthritis.

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Rest and ice
  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen
  • Physiotherapy exercises, guided by a qualified healthcare professional
  • Cortisone injections for temporary pain relief.

Dr Chia will develop a personalised treatment plan with exercises and steps to help you regain your motion.

If these nonsurgical options can’t relieve your AC joint arthritis pain, Dr Chia may recommend surgical treatment options.

Surgical options

Surgery for AC joint arthritis involves removing a portion of the end of the clavicle, preventing the damaged joint surfaces from touching. Around 10mm of the collarbone.

Dr Chia will perform the surgery using a series of small incisions (cuts) which is known as keyhole surgery. The surgery usually takes around one hour.

You should be able to go home on the day of the surgery, and you will need to wear a sling for a few days. After about a week you can begin gentle recovery and movement exercises. You should regain full motion in around four to six weeks after your surgery.

You will have follow-up with a physiotherapist who can assist your healing and give you gentle exercises to gradually rehabilitate your shoulder and help your recovery.

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. The information provided here is for general educational purposes only. For more information on shoulder arthritis and shoulder arthroplasty, please contact the office of Dr Marcus Chia - Sydney Orthopaedic Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon.

For appointments and enquiries, please phone (02) 8014 4252

Peninsula Orthopaedics
Suite 20, Level 7
Northern Beaches Hospital
105 Frenchs Forest Road
Frenchs Forest NSW 2086

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Suite 502, 20 Bungan Street
Mona Vale NSW 2103

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Suite 1, 402 Military Road
Cremorne NSW 2090

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Suite 403, Level 4
San Clinic
Sydney Adventist Hospital
185 Fox Valley Road
Wahroonga NSW 2076

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