A separated shoulder is an injury of one or more of the ligaments that hold together your acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which is formed by the collarbone (clavicle), shoulder blade (scapula), and bony process at the top of your shoulder blade (acromion).
Separation of the AC joint is commonly caused by a fall directly onto the shoulder, or from a blow to the shoulder, such as during contact sports. Ligaments surrounding and stabilizing the AC joint are stretched or torn. And if the force is really severe, the ligaments attached to the underside of the collarbone can also be torn, causing the collarbone and shoulder blade to separate, creating a bulge above the shoulder.
The orthopedic doctors at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in San Antonio are experts at diagnosing and treating shoulder separation. Learn more about the injury below.
Symptoms of a Separated Shoulder
Depending on the extent of injury, you might experience mild pain, swelling, and weakness with only a small bump at the top of your shoulder, to extreme pain, swelling, limited movement, and a large, deformed bulge. Pain-free function often returns even with a deformity. However, the greater the deformity, the longer it takes.
A mild shoulder separation merely involves a sprain of the AC ligament while the collarbone remains aligned. More serious tears and sprains of the AC ligament can cause a slight misalignment of the collarbone, while the most severe shoulder separation completely tears both the AC and coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments, leaving the shoulder joint clearly out of position. The collarbone might also be fractured.
Treatment for Shoulder Separation
Nonsurgical treatments such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, ice, and the use of a sling can help manage the pain of a shoulder separation, while physical therapy can help restore strength and motion in your shoulder.
If pain persists or the ligaments are completely torn, your doctor might recommend surgery. The end of the collarbone can be trimmed back so that it doesn’t rub against the AC joint, or the ligaments that attach to the underside of the collarbone may need to be reconstructed.
Whatever course of treatment, the shoulder will require follow-up rehabilitation to regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
If you suffer a separated shoulder, one of our doctors will evaluate your injury and recommend treatment. Call the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at (210) 692-7400 to schedule an appointment, or you can request an appointment online.