AC Joint Sprain

An AC joint sprain is a fairly common shoulder injury among active individuals. A shoulder sprain in the AC joint is typically caused by a direct blow to the “point” of the shoulder or a fall onto the shoulder joint. An AC joint sprain is characterized by the tearing of the connective tissue and ligaments of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. Dr. Peter Millett, proudly serving patients in the greater Vail, Aspen and Denver, Colorado area, specializes in diagnosing and treating shoulder pain associated with a shoulder sprain in the AC joint.

The AC joint is responsible for connecting the shoulder blade to the clavicle. The joint allows for a small range of shoulder movement compared to the shoulder joint. When the AC joint is put under extreme stress during sports or work activity, it has the potential to tear. When a tear occurs, it is known as an AC joint sprain. A shoulder sprain in the AC joint can range from a small sprain causing minimal shoulder pain to a severe sprain causing extreme pain, instability and deformity.

AC Joint Sprain Symptoms

Many individuals who sustain an AC joint sprain will experience a sudden onset of shoulder pain located at the top of the shoulder joint. The pain may increase during certain activities such as overhead lifting, pushing and pulling movements and moving the arm across the body. In a minor AC shoulder sprain, an individual may be able to perform daily activities with limited pain, swelling and stiffness. In more severe cases, a deformity may be visible from the tearing of the connective tissue holding the AC joint together.

AC Joint Sprain Diagnosis

In order to diagnosis a shoulder sprain of the AC joint, Dr. Millett will perform a thorough physical examination. He will ask questions about a patient’s medical history and when the injury occurred. Dr. Millett will also move the affected shoulder to determine areas of shoulder pain and weakness. X-rays and an MRI may also be performed to determine the extent of the AC joint sprain and rule out any other possible shoulder injuries.

AC Joint Sprain Treatment

Many individuals will recover from an AC shoulder sprain in a few weeks without the need of a surgical procedure. Dr. Millett typically begins with conservative treatment options to alleviate shoulder pain such as rest, activity modifications, shoulder immobilization, ice and a physical therapy program.

Dr. Millett may recommend a surgical treatment if conservative treatments do not alleviate the symptoms. Surgery may also be recommended for athletes and workers that require a full recovery to perform necessary everyday movements. There are numerous procedures designed to treat an AC joint sprain, including arthroscopic shoulder surgery for AC repair. Dr. Millett will explain all treatment options to patients on an individual basis.

For additional information on an AC joint sprain, or to learn more about treatment options for this shoulder condition, please contact Dr. Peter Millett, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in the Vail, Aspen and Denver, Colorado area.