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Common Types of AC Joint Injuries

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Illustration showing the bones of the shoulderThe acromioclavicular joint, commonly known as the AC joint, is the joint where the top of the shoulder (acromion) meets the collarbone (clavicle). Your AC joints allow you to raise your arms above your head and they assist with the movement of both scapulae (shoulder blades), enabling a wide degree of arm movement. Each AC joint is held in place by three ligaments.


There are several types of injures that can occur involving the AC joint. Francis Mendoza, M.D., NYC-based surgeon who specializes in shoulder and elbow conditions, explains the common types of AC joint injuries and their symptoms.


Common Types of AC Joint Injuries

  • AC Joint Sprain – Also known as a separated shoulder, this type of injury usually occurs when a person falls on the point of their shoulder, thus jamming the joint on impact. An AC joint separation can vary in degree from a simple sprain, to a partial dislocation, to a severe dislocation. A severe AC joint dislocation causes the clavicle to dislocate (separate from the acromion) when the torn ligaments can no longer hold the bones together.
  • Distal Clavicular Osteolysis – Also known as weightlifter’s shoulder, this type of injury is characterized by painful resorption of the distal clavicle due to high loads put on the clavicle as it meets the acromion during repetitive activities, such as weightlifting.


Symptoms of AC Joint Injuries

Depending on the extent of the injury, an AC joint injury may cause:

  • Mild to severe pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Limited arm motion
  • Weakness
  • Visible deformity at the top of the shoulder


Treatment for AC Joint Injuries

If you are experiencing any symptoms of an AC joint injury, you should seek medical attention from an experienced orthopaedist as soon as possible in order to diagnose your condition and determine the appropriate treatment path. To schedule an appointment at our NYC orthopaedic practice specializing in the shoulder and elbow, call 212-628-9600 or fill out the form on this page.


To learn more about treatment options for acromioclavicular joint injuries, which can range from conservative treatments to surgical procedures, visit our AC joint injuries page.

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