A shoulder separation (acromioclavicular joint injury) occurs when
the outer end of the collarbone (clavicle) separates from the end (acromion) of
the shoulder blade because of torn ligaments. This injury occurs most often
from a blow to the top of the shoulder or a fall onto the shoulder.
Signs and symptoms of a separated shoulder include:
Severe pain at the moment the injury
Limited movement in the shoulder area (because of pain, not
Swelling and bruising.
The outer end of the collarbone may look out of place. Or there may be a bump
on top of the shoulder.
Treatment may include applying ice and keeping the shoulder still
(immobilized) with a sling or wrap. Medicine to relieve pain,
inflammation, and swelling may be used. Early physical therapy to strengthen the
shoulder and get range of motion back is important. It helps with recovery and helps prevent frozen
shoulder (adhesive capsulitis). Normal exercises and
activities can be done as the pain and other symptoms go away. Sometimes
surgery may be needed to repair torn ligaments.
Healing may take 2 to 10 weeks depending on how bad the injury is.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
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