The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint makes up part of the shoulder structure. It is the joint at the top of your shoulder made up of the lateral end of the clavicle and the scapula. The AC joint allows for overhead and across the body movements of the arm and also transfers forces from the arm to the rest of the body during movements like pushing, pulling and lifting. When the AC joint is disrupted, it is called a shoulder sprain or AC separation or an AC joint sprain and it is a consequence of an injury that results in overstretching of the surrounding ligaments. The degree of the Acromioclavicular AC joint injury can vary from a mild strain to a complete tear of one or more of the surrounding ligaments.

An Acromioclavicular AC joint sprain will be suspected by your primary health care provider when you present with a traumatic onset of shoulder pain following either a fall on an outstretched arm or a fall onto the top of the shoulder. Additionally, other symptoms include pain at the top of the shoulder that may be aggravated by heavy lifting, overhead and across the body movements, there may be some swelling or bruising present over the top of the shoulder and loss of shoulder movements.

An AC joint sprain is usually graded by severity. Grade 1 is a partial tear of the AC ligament without any instability. Grade 2 is a rupture of the AC ligament and a partial tear of the coracoclavicular ligaments. Grade 3 is rupture of both the AC and coracoclavicular ligaments.

Treatment and management

Initial treatment for any soft tissue injury consists of the RICER protocol – rest, ice, compression, elevation and referral within the first 48-72 hours and NSAID’s. The aim is to reduce the bleeding and damage within the joint and also to reduce swelling and pain.

A period of six weeks is usually needed for the ligaments to heal completely, therefore, it is advised to protect the Acromioclavicular AC joint ligaments from overstretching the immature scar tissue. It may be helpful to use a sling, taping or a shoulder brace to stabilize and de-load the AC joint to further assist in the healing process.

When returning back to usual activity, including sports and rehabilitation exercises it is important to do this gradually to avoid risk of recurrence of injury. Following a period of rest and cold therapy, grade 1 and 2 injuries sprains can be introduced to mobility exercises but only once shoulder movement is pain free.  Conservative management of grade 3 AC joint separations has been demonstrated to be as effective as surgery in the long-term. Furthermore, manual therapy such as joint mobilisations may assist in reducing pain and restoring normal range of motion within the shoulder joint. Acute painful AC joint does not require intense manual therapy however, as your range of motion and strength progresses more intense manual therapy may be performed to increase range of motion.

We are located in Central Walk, Joondalup, 6027 – central to Perth’s northern suburbs. We have visitors from local areas including Woodvale – 6026, Pearsall – 6065, Tapping – 6065, Carramar- 6031, Banksia Grove – 6031, Carine – 6020, Hamersley – 6022 and Duncraig – 6023. 

We have a HICAPS terminal on site which means you can claim direct from your health fund on the day of you treatment. We are a Medibank preferred provider but we are also able to process claims from HBF, HIF, CU Health, health.com.au, BUPA, ahm, Defence and Australian Unity Health. If your fund is not listed, please feel free to ask one of our friendly staff members.

Here at Lakeside Chiropractic our staff are well trained and regularly see visitors who they are able to successfully treat. Please call us on 9300 0095 or on the website www.lakesidechiro.com.au via the Book Online Now tab.

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