An Overview of an 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, serving patients from Vail, Aspen and the surrounding Denver, Colorado communities, 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.

What are the Symptoms of an AC Joint Sprain?

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 when 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.

Have you sustained an AC joint sprain?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Millett:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review ($250).

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Millett.

How is an AC Joint Sprain Diagnosed?

In order to diagnosis a shoulder sprain of the AC joint, Dr. Millett will perform a thorough physical examination. He will ask questions regarding the patient’s medical history as well as what led to the injury. 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 to rule out any other possible shoulder injuries.

How is an AC Joint Sprain Treated?

Active individuals can recover from an AC shoulder sprain in a few weeks without the need of surgical intervention. 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 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 the different treatment options to his patients and will suggest the best course of action.

For additional information on an AC joint sprain, or to learn more about treatment options shoulder pain and other shoulder conditions, please contact the office of Dr. Peter Millett.