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Separated Shoulder – What is This Shoulder Injury?

A separated shoulder or an acromioclavicular joint injury happens when the scapula and the

clavicle come together. The shoulder is composed of three bones: the collarbone or clavicle; the shoulder blade scapula; and the humerus or arm bone. The acromioclavicular joint is the one that links the scapula and the clavicle. When the joint is disrupted, a shoulder separation occurs. This is sometimes called an AC separation.

This injury is different from a shoulder dislocation, which occurs when the arm bone is displaced from its socket. These two shoulder conditions have different implications, complications, and treatments.

How does a shoulder separation injury happen?

The most common cause of this injury is a traumatic event that resulted from a specific incident such as a forceful blow to the shoulder or a hard fall that made you land on your shoulders. These incidents often occur in sports activities like football, rugby, or ice hockey. Falling off from riding a horse or a bicycle can also result in this type of shoulder injury.

What are the symptoms of a separated shoulder?

Symptoms of shoulder separation include an immediate and sharp pain usually accompanied by an inflammation and swelling as manifested by a large bump on top of the shoulder. Bruising can occur with tenderness around the bruised area, as well as by a limited range of movement. In more serious cases, the injury can result in arm weakness.

The diagnosis of a shoulder separation is formed through a physical examination of the patient. An X-ray should reveal the extent of the injury. It will also become apparent if there is evidence of broken bones such as fractures or any deformity in the physical appearance of the shoulder joints. If the X-ray result is not clear, try holding a weight while undergoing the X-ray procedure. This will better show instability in the shoulder joints.

The Different Variations of Shoulder Injury?

Shoulder separation is divided into different types according to the injury’s severity and the location and position of the displaced bones. Type I involves the capsule around the AC joint that is injured. Type II includes an injury to the AC joint capsule and vital ligaments of the clavicle. Type III is a more severe case of Type II injury. Type IV occurs when the clavicle is displaced at the back of the AC joint, which is quite unusual. When the muscle above the joint is punctured by the clavicle, it is considered a Type V. Type VI is the rarest and happens when the clavicle is pushed down and displaced to the area below the scapula.

Solutions and Treatments

Immediate concern following the injury is to manage the inflammation and pain that come with it. This can be helped by ice, together with pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Resting the shoulder will greatly reduce the pain. For a minor injury, stretching and motion exercises can be done.

 Non-surgical shoulder treatment options include physical therapy for muscle build up around the AC joint. This develops stability. A long-term therapy follow-up after the surgical repair of severe cases also works quite well. Sometimes, in some medical literature that studies therapy versus surgery, the former is a better option.

Surgical procedures can be done to treat severe shoulder separation cases. However, the risk of the onset of diseases like arthritis is increased. The Mumford procedure can be performed if this happens.

Rehabilitation is your best option for post-surgery healing or as a non-surgical treatment. You can go into comprehensive strengthening programs with stretching and motion exercises. This will prevent further injury to the separated shoulder.




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