Separated Shoulder

A separated shoulder is an injury to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, where the collarbone attaches to the highest point of the shoulder blade. Despite its name, this condition actually does not involve the shoulder joint. This injury typically results from a direct impact or fall on the shoulder that causes damage to the ligaments that surround and stabilize the AC joint. In severe cases, the ligaments that attach the underside of the clavicle may tear, causing a separation of the collarbone and the wingbone. This, in turn, causes a visible bump above the shoulder. Depending on the severity of the injury, symptoms may range from mild pain and very little visible evidence to very noticeable physical changes accompanied by severe pain. In mild cases, the AC ligament is sprained but may appear normal on X-rays. In more serious cases, both the AC and coracoclavicular (CC) ligaments are damaged and the collarbone appears misaligned. And in the most severe cases, both the AC and CC ligaments are torn completely and the joint is noticeably out of alignment. Non-surgical treatment of shoulder separations may include the use of stabilizing devices such as slings, administration of ice and anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy to restore mobility, strength, and flexibility. If pain persists and the deformity is significant, surgery may be considered as an option.