The acromioclavicular (AC) joint in your shoulder can fracture, separate, or suffer long-term erosion due to arthritis. If you have a painful acromioclavicular joint injury, board-certified orthopaedic surgeon Brian Schofield, MD, of Schofield, Hand and Bright Orthopaedics in Sarasota, Florida, can help. Dr. Schofield specializes in performing AC joint surgery to relieve pain and improve your shoulder's strength and mobility. For expert treatment of acromioclavicular joint injuries, call the office to schedule a consultation or book an appointment online today.
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injuries affect the point where your collarbone (clavicle) joins a section of bone at the top of your shoulder blade called the acromion. There are two main ways for acromioclavicular joint injuries to occur – through acute injuries or from osteoarthritis.
Where two bones meet inside the joint, the two bony surfaces have coatings of slippery cartilage that ensure they slide smoothly over each other. Over the years, the cartilage wears away leaving the bones exposed, which leads to osteoarthritis. As well as making joints stiff and painful, osteoarthritis can trigger bone spur development, adding to the friction and pain.
Acute AC joint injuries are often joint separation or bone fractures, where the bone cracks or breaks.
Acromioclavicular joint separation is where the ligaments that connect your acromion and clavicle tear or rupture. The degree of joint separation ranges from mild to severe, according to a grading system:
A Grade 1 acromioclavicular joint separation is the mildest type and only affects the AC joint itself.
In addition to the AC ligament injury, a Grade 2 acromioclavicular joint separation stretches a second set of ligaments connecting your clavicle and coracoid (another section of your shoulder blade). A grade 2 injury can make the AC joint appear lumpy.
If you sustain a Grade 3 acromioclavicular joint separation injury, it means the ligaments are completely ruptured, and your clavicle is no longer attached to your shoulder blade. The AC joint looks noticeably misshapen, and the injury is likely to be extremely painful.
Dr. Schofield may need to immobilize the arm affected by an acromioclavicular joint injury using a sling. Ice packs help to reduce swelling, and medication can ease the pain and inflammation.
As soon as the pain starts to decrease, it's important for you to gently move your fingers, wrist, and elbow to help prevent stiffness in your shoulder. Physical therapy is also vital to prevent soft tissue atrophy.
Dr. Schofield may recommend regenerative medicine techniques to promote strong, healthy new tissue growth.
For many patients, nonsurgical treatments are successful. However, if they aren't easing your pain or you have significant loss of function, you might need to consider surgery.
Dr. Schofield may use minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques to perform surgery on acromioclavicular joint injuries. This approach minimizes tissue damage and pain and hastens recovery. If arthroscopic techniques aren’t the best approach for your situation, Dr. Schofield is also skilled in open surgery techniques.
For expert care of your acromioclavicular joint injuries, call Schofield, Hand and Bright Orthopaedics or book an appointment online today.