An AC joint separation, also known as an AC joint sprain, is an injury to the ligament that holds the acromioclavicular joint together on the upper part of the shoulder. It typically occurs due to a fall on an extended arm.
AC joint sprains can be classified as a very mild (grade 1) to a severe (grade 6) injury.
It is essential that the patient receives early treatment and support for this surgery to prevent problems in the long run or shoulder deformities.
Thomas & Bigler Knee & Shoulder Institute, led by board-certified orthopedic surgeons Dr. Steven C. Thomas and Dr. Gregory T. Bigler, provides orthopedic treatments to patients in Las Vegas, Nevada and surrounding communities and towns in this area of the nation.
The symptoms of this condition include pain at the end of the collarbone on the upper part of the shoulder. The pain may extend throughout the shoulder area initially. However, it can become localized to a hard point atop the shoulder later on.
What is an AC Joint Separation?
The AC joint is an acronym for the acromioclavicular joint. The separation of the two bones in this joint occurs due to injury to the ligaments joining them. It is also known as a shoulder separation injury. The acromioclavicular joint comprises the collar (clavicle) bone’s outer end and the acromion process of the shoulder (scapular) blade. The acromion refers to a bony process which projects forward from atop the scapular.
Commonly, the AC joint receives an injury due to landing on the elbow, shoulder, or an outstretched arm. When a person falls, they usually automatically outstretch their arm to break the fall. The force of the fall goes up the wrist and arm to the AC joint.
The first aid for an AC joint injury is to apply the principles of PRICE, namely rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This involves the application of ice therapy and a compression wrap to the injured area immediately to address the pain and inflammation. The patient will need to wear a sling to ensure that the shoulder is immobile as well as to reduce the pain by taking the weight off the arm.
A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory meds such as ibuprofen to mitigate the pain and swelling. They will also diagnose the injury to ascertain its severity.
In case an injury to the AC joint is not adequately treated, it can cause a lump on top of the shoulder in the long-run. The doctor may use ultrasound for minor injuries. In more severe cases, they may use TENS for relief from pain.
AC Joint Taping
To assist with healing, AC joint taping should be used. This will fix the joint and support it into the right position. The joint may require taping for around two to three weeks.
Firstly, apply two or three 2.5 cm zinc oxide tape strips over the shoulder’s top covering the AC joint. This will offer an anchor for the support strip to connect to. In the next step, pass a support tape strip from the front part of the shoulder and down the side of the arm to apply tension to the tape.
Committed orthopedic surgeons Dr. Thomas and Dr. Bigler receive patients from Las Vegas, Nevada and other towns and cities in The Silver State.
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