Dr Marcus Chia - Shoulder Surgeon
Learn about AC joint injury causes and treatment options.
AC joint injuries are injuries that occur on the AC (acromioclavicular) joint. The AC joint is formed between the end of the collarbone (clavicle) and a specific part (acromion) of the shoulder blade (scapula).
Your AC joint is the bony lump on top of your shoulder (that is covered by the bra strap in women). Its stability depends upon multiple ligaments and muscles.
AC joint injuries range from mild shoulder sprains to complete joint dislocations.
There are six types of AC joint injuries:
The type of injury depends on how the injury was caused and the amount of energy transferred to the joint.
There are a range of AC joint injury symptoms which can vary, depending on the type of injury you have.
Common symptoms can include:
AC joint injuries are usually caused by a fall on the tip of the shoulder. This type of injury may damage the ligaments, muscles and cartilage in the joint. An AC joint injury can also fracture the collarbone or acromion.
Commonly, sporting injuries are the reason for a fall on the shoulder. Nearly half of all sporting shoulder injuries are AC joint injuries. Growth plate injuries in children and young adults can also cause AC joint injuries.
If you have recently had a fall on your shoulder and have symptoms of an AC joint injury, Dr Marcus Chia can examine your injury. A physical exam will assess the seriousness of the issue and rule out other potential injuries.
You will need an X-ray to diagnose the injury and determine which type of injury you have. In some cases, you may also need a CT or MRI scan.
The treatment options for AC joint injuries include rest, strength exercises and rehabilitation, and surgery.
Most AC joint injuries can be treated without surgery. The first step of treatment is to control pain and swelling with ice and pain-relieving medications. You will need to rest your shoulder in a simple sling.
When your pain subsides, Dr Chia will develop a suitable rehabilitation program followed by strengthening exercises. You will need to avoid contact sports and heavy lifting for two to three months while you are healing.
If your injury is more severe, or if a rehabilitation program doesn’t heal your injury, you may need surgery.
Surgery will help to reduce the joint dislocation and stabilise the joint.
There are a range of surgical techniques for this type of surgery, and Dr Chia utilises key-hole surgery where possible. Key-hole surgery involves making a series of small cuts, rather than one large cut, to reconstruct the shoulder and achieve a faster recovery.
After surgery, you will need to place your shoulder in a sling for comfort. You can ice your injury to relieve pain and swelling. Dr Chia will give you a treatment plan which includes both active and passive exercises to increase your range of motion. You’ll need to avoid lifting any objects that weigh more than 2 kg, and you can start strengthening exercises three months after your surgery. You can return to sports and manual labour when your full range of motion and strength are back to normal.
Dr Chia offers specialist diagnosis, management and treatment for AC joint injuries of the shoulder.
An experienced shoulder surgeon, Dr Chia uses minimally invasive and advanced techniques to help you heal, recover and improve your motion.
If you are concerned you may have a shoulder injury, contact us today
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. The information provided here is for general educational purposes only. For more information on AC joint injuries, or to learn more about arthroscopic AC joint repair, please contact the office of Dr Marcus Chia - Sydney Orthopaedic Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon.
For appointments and enquiries, please phone (02) 8014 4252
Suite 20, Level 7
Northern Beaches Hospital
105 Frenchs Forest Road
Frenchs Forest NSW 2086
Mona Vale Rooms
Suite 502, 20 Bungan Street
Mona Vale NSW 2103
Suite 1, 402 Military Road
Cremorne NSW 2090
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