I Dislocated My Collarbone 16 Years Ago, Never Had It Fixed and Now I Have Shoulder Pain and Weakness. What are my Options?

Dr Millett,

I dislocated my collarbone when I fell onto it about 16 years ago. I put it in a sling, but it never popped back in. Just recently it is starting to give me some discomfort, and I have noticed that the right arm is much weaker than the left when holding my arms out in front of me for prolonged periods (during martial arts).

I have assumed over the years that it is too late to treat this simply as my body will have grown and developed to accommodate this. Is there any advice you can give as to a course of action, or is it simply something I will have to live with having left any treatment so long?


Dear Tim,
Thank you very much for your kind email – I am however sorry to hear of your unfortunate shoulder injury. Most commonly a dislocated collar bone occurs when the AC joint is injured. This is also called a shoulder separation. An AC joint injury can be managed in several different ways depending on the severity. I have been reconstructing many of these arthroscopically, even in chronic cases, and you may be a candidate for this type of minimally-invasive surgery for your problem, especially since it sounds as if you are having a lot of disability with this injury. I usually fix type 5’s and some type 3’s in those who are chronically symptomatic (as are you) or in overhead athletes. However, as you can imagine, there can be many different factors to consider for shoulder injuries such as yours. Furthermore, as you might expect there can be several treatment options and risks with benefits with each type that I would be happy to discuss with you. You can go to the following websites for some additional online information:



If you would like, I would be happy to review your x-rays and MRI, and afterwards, if possible, I could give you my opinion about what should be done surgically to either cure the problem or at least alleviate the symptoms. I can usually determine from the studies and a telephone conversation whether it would be worthwhile having you come for a visit/surgery. It would be best if I could evaluate you in person as this gives me the greatest chance of effectively diagnosing and treating your problem. You can call to schedule an appointment to see me.

Thank you again for your email – I look forward to helping you with this problem.

Dr. Millett