The AC (Acromioclavicular) joint is the joint between the collar bone (Clavicle) and the outside of the shoulder blade (Acromion) , it is located on top of your shoulder joint at the side. It allows full over head range of motion.
Injuries to the AC joint commonly occur during contact sports where there is an impact to the outside of the shoulder causing the joint to separate.
Patients with this condition typically experience a sudden onset of pain on the top of the shoulder at the time of injury. Patients may also notice a ‘step’ deformity or bump in their shoulder with the tip of their collar bone sticking up.Pain may increase with activities involving lying on the affected side, moving the arm across the body, overhead activity, lifting and pushing or pulling movements with the affected arm.
Injuries are classified by grading
Grade I- Joint sprained without tear of ligaments
Grade II- >5 mm elevation of the collar bone
Grade III- Complete separation between the collar bone and the acromion.
The recovery time will depend on the grade of the injury. With appropriate management, most patients with a minor to moderate AC joint sprain can return to sport or normal activity within 2 – 8 weeks
Treatment for Acromioclavicular Joint Pain
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Exercise programs to improve proprioception, and strength (rotator cuff and scapular rhythm)
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Biomechanical assessment
- Postural Correction
- Activity modification advice
- Ice or heat treatment