Nov 22, 2016 – Separated Shoulders (AC Joint Sprain) Part 1



​We’ve all seen it on TV before: a hockey player is checked into the boards, they get up grimacing and holding their shoulder and skate off the ice. The dreaded Separated Shoulder or ‘Acromio-clavicular’ joint sprain, which more commonly will occur after someone falls onto their shoulder from a height. What is this shoulder injury, and how is it different from a dislocation?

The acromio-clavicular joint is the connection between the collar-bone and the shoulder blade. When there is downward force applied to top of the shoulder blade, the ligaments holding this joint together will tear, causing a separation between the two bones. This is completely different from a dislocated shoulder, when the upper arm comes out of the shoulder socket.


After a shoulder separation a patient will commonly feel widespread pain, especially at night. Over time the pain will localize at the tip of the collarbone, often forming a step-like deformity. You will also find widespread weakness of the shoulder muscles along with swelling. These injuries are graded 1-6, depending on the extent of damage to the shoulder ligaments. Grades 1 – 3 can be treated conservatively with rehab, while Grades 4 – 6 usually require surgery.

Check back next week for how to treat shoulder separations:

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