Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Injury

An injury of the acromioclavicular joint targets the area where the shoulder blade (scapula) meets the collarbone (clavicle). The injury typically takes place in the form of a sprain, forcing the tendon apart by some type of blunt force trauma.

Compassionate Healing Starts Here

Our world-renowned Hand, Wrist & Microvascular Surgery providers are experts in the full spectrum of conditions and injuries related to the hand, wrist, forearm and elbow. With access to the latest research and technology, our subspecialists deliver innovative treatments and procedures for even the most complex problems to return normal function to an essential part of your body.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Hand, Wrist & Microvascular Surgery team at 513-475-8690.

As the referral center for Greater Cincinnati and the region, the Sports Medicine & Concussion program provides top quality care for even the most complex musculoskeletal conditions. We customize treatment plans that use the most innovative, effective surgical and nonsurgical techniques to restore function, relieve pain for professional athletes, high school sports teams and anyone who leads an active lifestyle.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Sports Medicine & Concussion team at 513-475-8690.


Understanding Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Injury

What is the AC Joint?

The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is where the shoulder blade (scapula) meets the collarbone (clavicle). The highest point of the shoulder blade is called the acromion. Strong tissues called ligaments connect the acromion to the collarbone, forming the AC joint.

An AC joint sprain occurs when an injury damages the ligaments in the AC joint.

What causes AC joint sprain?

Often an accident or injury forces the AC joint apart. This may include:

  • Falling onto your shoulder.

  • Falling onto an outstretched hand.

  • Getting a direct blow to your shoulder.

Symptoms of AC joint sprain

Symptoms can vary depending on how serious the injury is. They can include:

  • Shoulder pain.

  • Shoulder that feels sore when touched.

  • Swelling.

  • Bruising.

  • Change in the shoulder’s shape.

  • Bulge above the shoulder.

  • Shoulder that appears to droop.

  • Collarbone that moves upward.

  • Limited movement in the shoulder.

Treatment for AC joint sprain

Treatment will depend on how serious the strain is. It will also depend on whether you have damage to other parts of the shoulder. Treatment may include:

  • Rest. This allows your shoulder to heal. You should avoid activities that stress the joint. This includes reaching overhead or sleeping on your shoulder.
  • Sling. This protects the shoulder and holds the joint in a good position for healing.
  • Cold packs. These help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain medicines. These help relieve pain and swelling.
  • Arm and shoulder exercises. These help keep the shoulder joint mobile as it heals. They also help improve muscle strength around the joint.

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