The acromioclavicular joint is located in the shoulder, the joint that connects the collar bone also called the clavicle the upper section of the shoulder blade known as the acromion. Acromioclavicular joint pain or AC joint pain is a common issue that occurs in many people, especially those with active lifestyles. This affects the shoulder and may be caused by several different issues.
Arthritis of the AC joint is much more difficult to deal with. Breakdown of cartilage and the weakening of tendons and ligaments within it over years of use. The wear and tear will often cause arthritis to set in and will present as pain, inflammation, and stiffness and joint pain. Managing this problem is usually the same as other arthritis related joint pain.
Understanding the symptoms that accompany pain in the AC joint is important for those with shoulder troubles.
Symptoms of Acromioclavicular Joint Pain
Acromioclavicular joint pain is brought on by two things direct trauma or gradual deterioration. Of these, trauma is the most common and is worth looking at first.
- Sharp initial pain ranging from moderate to severe immediately when the injury occurs.
- Bruising or swelling in the shoulder.
- A deformed look to the shoulder. This is caused by the clavicle protruding after the two bones are separated.
- High levels of stiffness and tightness.
- Difficulty moving the shoulder and pain when moving it horizontally.
After the injury has healed, patients may still suffer from numerous issues. In fact, even without experiencing a serious injury there is a chance that the AC joint may suffer from things like arthritis. As you use your body it gradually begins to deteriorate in different ways.
Causes of Acromioclavicular Joint Pain
Acromioclavicular joint pain is usually brought on by a traumatic injury. But there are several different things that can happen to cause this pain to occur.
Learning more about the causes of acromioclavicular joint pain:
Usually, the injury involves the tearing of ligaments within the AC joint. These tears can vary from minor frays into very major tears.
Torn ligaments can often trigger separations, where the shoulder blade and the collarbone separate from each other.
Sprains are also common in this type of injury and are caused by torn ligaments.
Along with the initial injury, there is a chance that AC joint injuries or just regular wear and tear of it could lead to chronic pain conditions.
Arthritis is common type of joint pain & it can affect AC joint as well. When cartilage in the joint is injured or degenerates, arthritis may set in.
While torn ligaments often heal themselves up to a point, repeated damage can cause a number of complications ranging from weakened tissue to adhesions.
Treatments for Acromioclavicular Joint Pain
Acromioclavicular joint pain treatments will depend upon the specifics of the injury, which your physician will need to determine.
There are several different options for treating and managing acromioclavicular joint pain correctly:
- Ice packs applied to the area for a half hour right after the injury are important and will reduce pain as well as reduce swelling.
- Usually, immobilization will be required. If the collarbone and shoulder blade have become separated, the doctor may have to reset them as well.
- The use of ice or heat will probably be used during the healing process, whichever works the best for you.
- Periods of rest may need to be followed, often up to several weeks. During this time the shoulder will be immobilized to avoid causing further damage.
- NSAID medications like aspirin or ibuprofen may also be used.
When all other options have failed, your doctor may consider surgery to repair the AC joint ligament tears.
Studies have found that things like natural supplements can help prevent and lessen pain. Acupuncture may also be effective for some people.
In severe cases of acromioclavicular joint pain that aren’t helped with other treatments, surgery is often a final solution that may need to be considered. Usually, proper treatment will allow injuries to heal and just a few preventative measures will help slow the progression of arthritis. This can be a painful, debilitating type of joint pain and it’s important that sufferers take the time to manage it properly, whether it is caused by a sudden injury or by gradual wear and tear.