Separated shoulder, also known as acromioclavicular (AC) separation, is a sprain of the ligaments that attach the clavicle (collarbone) to the acromiom, the highest part of the scapula (shoulder blade). The sprain can either be partial, with minimal separation of the clavicle and acromion, or a complete separation of the clavicle and acromion. Treatment is based on the amount of displacement seen on X-rays.
The injury commonly occurs due to a direct blow to the lateral (outside) part of the shoulder, or by falling on an outstretched hand or elbow. AC joint injuries are particularly common in contact sports and biking.
Our Approach to Separated Shoulder
A separated shoulder typically heals on its own. Simple treatments such as ice packs, pain medication and an arm sling can reduce pain and swelling after the injury. Surgery is generally not needed unless the damage is severe or in rare cases of prolonged pain. In the procedure, surgeons reconstruct the damaged ligaments.
Should you need surgery, our team includes orthopedic surgeons who specialize in the shoulder, as well as physical therapists who focus on working with orthopedic and sports medicine patients. We work together to relieve pain and restore mobility, so patients can return to their normal lives and the activities they enjoy.
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UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.