The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is where the collar bone (clavicle) meets the shoulder. A fall onto the shoulder can cause the joint to separate, tearing the ligaments that would normally stabilize the clavicle. The clavicle becomes raised and a bump can be seen on the top of the shoulder. Most AC joint separations are treated with a sling for several weeks to give the joint time to heal and control movement to minimize pain.
Conservative treatment of AC joint problems usually includes rest, modifying activities and ice as well as possible medication. A cortisone injection is sometimes given into the joint. Surgery is performed arthroscopically and the arthritic portion of the clavicle can be removed on an outpatient basis. Physical therapy and range of motion exercises are usually started right away, with most patients recovering excellent range of motion. Most patients can return to weight lifting and/or activities involving lifting above the shoulder within several months after surgery.