Shoulder pain, bruising, swelling, weakness, and a limited range of motion are all signs of a shoulder injury. If you fall and land on your shoulder or receive a direct blow, you may have separated or dislocated it. A separated shoulder is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments that connect the collarbone to the shoulder blade, which is called the AC joint. One distinct sign of a separated shoulder is a bump and swelling near the end of your collarbone.
Shoulder Separation Grading
Treating a separated shoulder depends on the severity of the injury. Injuries are graded according to severity. Grade I injuries are minor and mean that the AC joint still lines up. A Grade II injury means the ligaments are stretched but not torn. A Grade III injury means the ligament is completely torn, and the collarbone is no longer aligned with the shoulder blade.
Treatment for a Separated Shoulder
A separated shoulder that is mild or moderate may be treated using conservative methods that include rest, applying cold packs, pain medication, and using a sling to support the arm. Physical therapy is a critical part of recovering from an injury. The exercises will rebuild your strength and restore your shoulder’s flexibility and range of motion.
Doctors will observe if the symptoms improve after conservative treatment. If the patient does not regain function after a few weeks, doctors may recommend surgery. Only a medical professional can determine whether or not you need surgery for your separated shoulder.
Surgery for Separated Shoulder
For patients with severe injuries in which the ligament has torn completely and the collarbone is significantly displaced from the shoulder blade, surgery may be necessary. Patients with a Grade III injury, where there is a visible deformity in the shoulder area, will need an AC (acromioclavicular) joint repair. During the procedure, the doctor will reconnect the torn ligaments and restore the collarbone’s proper alignment with the shoulder blade using screws.
A separated shoulder can be severely painful, and a focus of treatment is reducing pain. The total recovery period may take weeks to months. Complications from a separated shoulder also exist. Patients may continue to experience symptoms months after the injury. Arthritis can also develop in the AC joint due to the injury. To minimize complications, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions and advice, including when to safely return to your normal activities.
Orthopaedic Surgeon in San Antonio, TX
If you have injured your shoulder and think you may have suffered a shoulder separation, see an orthopedic doctor soon. At the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, our on-site facilities include state-of-the-art diagnostic x-rays and ultrasound, which can help us quickly diagnose shoulder injuries. We make sure your shoulder injury heals quickly and completely and avoid future complications as much as possible. Most people with a shoulder separation injury recover without any complications.