What is an AC Joint Dislocation?

The AC joint is located in the shoulder where two bones meet. You can experience an AC joint dislocation with some traumatic injuries. Read on to learn more.

AC Joint

The AC joint is located between the clavicle and acromion in your shoulder. AC stands for acromioclavicular (acromion plus clavicle). The joint has a few main parts. First, there is a capsule that helps to hold the joint together. Additionally, there are several different ligaments.

How Does the Joint Dislocate?

The AC joint can dislocate if you experience a direct fall on your shoulder. This commonly occurs from crashing on a bike, falling while skiing, or falling while skateboarding.

Immediately after the trauma, you feel pain over the AC joint. It becomes difficult to raise the arm after the injury occurs. The area may also show signs of bruising. There may be a slight or large elevation of the joint area after the injury as well.

Treating a Dislocation

The first line treatment is to apply ice to the affected area. Ice can be kept on your shoulder as long as you can tolerate it. Initially, a sling may help to immobilize the arm too. This will help to reduce the pain because it stabilizes the injured joint. You may also want to consider anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce pain. Of course, make sure your doctor approves any medications first.

You may find that sleep is difficult with this injury. Sleeping in an upright position may be most comfortable, as it is very difficult to sleep on your injured side. In fact, it may take up to eight weeks before you can sleep comfortably in a normal position.

How Your Doctors can Help

When you visit your doctor for this injury, they will likely perform an X-ray on your shoulder first. Depending on your pain level, they may order a prescription NSAID for you to take as well. Once your pain and swelling is reduced, they may direct you to a physical therapist. Physical therapists can help restore your range of motion of the shoulder . They will also help you rebuild the muscles around your shoulder joint.

Prognosis and Return to Activities

Most people have symptoms for a minimum of six weeks after this injury. Some may experience symptoms for up to six months. It is also not uncommon for joint popping to occur after the injury. Fortunately, surgery is rarely needed for this injury. You can also return to any sports once the range of motion in your shoulder is restored and your pain has diminished.

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