What is a shoulder acromioclavicular joint injury?
The acromioclavicular or AC joint is the joint on the front outside of your shoulder. It is made up of two bones, the clavicle, and acromion. Four ligaments hold the joint together. When those ligaments are strained it creates instability and dysfunction to your AC joint, resulting in an AC joint injury, often causing some joint separation, most often referred to as shoulder pain.
AC injuries fall into one of two categories: overuse and/or traumatic.
Overuse injury occurs over a period of time from repeated or consistent motions resulting in excessive stress to the joint. This causes wear and tear damage to the cartilage leading to AC joint arthritis and chronic shoulder pain.
Traumatic injury occurs when damaged ligaments of the AC joint cause a disruption leading to shoulder separation. This is different from a shoulder dislocation which involves the actual ball and socket shoulder joint.
What causes shoulder acromioclavicular joint injury?
The cause of an AC joint injury depends on the type of injury.
Overuse AC joint injuries are caused by overuse and are commonly seen in people who perform tasks that involve working out and lifting heavy weight (including military or bench presses), or repeating motions like playing tennis or even swimmers training for hours or that people that perform physical labor involving stretching their arms over their heads.
Traumatic AC joint injuries are often caused by a fall or a car accident from grasping the wheel and coming to a sudden stop. If a person falls and lands on their shoulder or falling on their hands trying to brace their fall. It is often seen in cyclists who involved in crashes, football players when they are tackled or tackle other players, or a laborer who falls from a high place, such as a ladder. These injuries are graded from mild to severe, depending on how much separation there is in the joint space.
Another aggravating factor if you already have shoulder issues is sleeping on your side. Because the weight of your upper body compresses your shoulder joint all or part of the night causing the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons to be stressed, inflamed and contract, further causing loss of range of motion and faster wear and tear of your shoulder.
What are the symptoms of acromioclavicular joint pain?
A patient with AC joint pain may experience the following symptoms:
- A bump that sits above your shoulder and is easily visible
- A catching sensation or popping sound when you move your shoulder(s)
- Pain and swelling in your shoulder
- Loss of range of motion of your shoulder
- Loss or decrease in shoulder strength
- Tenderness and swelling over your AC joint
- Pain when lying on the affected side
- Discomfort and pain in your shoulder when performing activities that place stress on your AC joint, including:
- Carrying heavy objects at the side
- Reaching across the body
- Lifting objects overhead
- Trying to reach behind you or to the side
- While trying to brush your teeth or hair
What are the treatments for acromioclavicular joint pain?
The first priority is to identify the cause and/or stop repeating the activity that causes pain. The next priority is to assess if the AC joint is the only structure involved or if there are additional structures involved (scapula, S/C Joint, upper thoracic vertebrae, lower cervical vertebra, elbow, wrist, hand involvement causing compensatory additional stress to your shoulder, as well as assessing your lower back and latissimus dorsi musculature) for engagement.
In more than 90% of shoulder pain cases, we have seen over the last 32+ years of practice, where you feel the pain is usually not where the real problem is…
Once the involved structure has been found then and only then can a proper treatment plan begin. The reason I say that… is too many cases get treating for pain relief instead or correcting the actual problem and the shoulder sufferer stays in pain, doesn’t recover fully or becomes desperate that their problem will become permanent.
This doesn’t have to be that way!
Mild cases of traumatic shoulder pain injuries are often treated with physical therapy and precise extremity manipulation. Ice, red lights, pressure wave therapy, rest, natural anti-inflammatories (grade A Turmeric, ginger, and a few other secret ingredients we use in our office) and kinesiotaping can also be used to manage the situation and improve the chances of healing correctly.
Overuse AC joint injuries can also be treated with the same protocol above, while more severe cases may require surgery. Doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants, pain medication, or NSAIDs to help manage the pain. But this approach often just masks the pain, not correcting the actual damage and allowing for more wear and tear and further arthritic degenerative changes to continue.
How effective Is Our specific 6-Step Protocol for acromioclavicular shoulder pain?
After treating more than 5,103 professional, Olympic and World-Class athletes from around the world in almost every sport, we have thrown out what does not work and laser targeted our approach on what not only gets quick results but lasting results as well.
The main reason is that we spend time figuring all the structures involved instead of just treating you for pain relief. Why is this important? Because it is a more thorough comprehensive evaluation of all the components involved in correcting your entire issue.
We have also brought in some state-of-the-art equipment from Italy, Germany, and Switzerland that most offices Are not aware of. This has given us that extra edge of combining practical experience, knowledge and teaching seminars around the country and Europe to benefit our patients and increasing the results in each case dramatically.
If you suffer or have been suffering from chronic shoulder pain – call our office today for a complete evaluation of your shoulder and see if and what we can do to help you finally… recover!
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