What is a Acromio-Clavicular Joint Injury?
The acromio-clavicular joint, AC Joint or simply ACJ, is located on the top of your shoulder. Injuries to this joint can lead to restricted and painful movement. If left untreated, postural changes and abnormal movement habits can occur, increasing the likelihood of secondary problems.
The ACJ is formed by the end of your collar bone, or clavicle, and the acromion process; a bony bump at the
top of your shoulder blade, or scapula.
It acts to provide stability to your shoulder blade and it is surrounded by ligaments which help to keep it in position.
Injuries to the ACJ
Injuries to the ACJ can often be seen in the athletic population, as they tend to be associated with a sudden
trauma such as falling off a bike or an awkward sports tackle. However any other high force incident, such as
that seen in a road traffic accident can incur an injury to the ACJ.
As the joint sits just under the skin, bruising and swelling are normally quite visible. There may be a change
in how your joint looks, depending on the severity of your injury.
How long it will take you to recover depends significantly on the severity of your injury, and how strict you
are with your management. This can take anything from 8 weeks to 9 months or more.
With the correct management most people are able to regain their full function in time, however do not be
alarmed if there still appears to be a slight deformity to your joint.
Regardless of your activity, posture is key. Ensure you do not hunch or round your shoulders. Endeavour to
keep your shoulder blades relaxed back, and your neck long whatever your activity. This will place your joint
in its optimal position for recovery, and prevent other areas tightening up.
At home treatments
Medications such as anti-inflammatories e.g. Nurofen or Voltaren, may help with reducing pain and easing
movement in the first few days. (talk to your osteopath first).
Use a hot water bottle on the muscles by your neck. This area can often tighten due to pain, so using heat
will help to alleviate this tension.
Stretching can help to prevent stiffness in your shoulder generally without running too much risk of irritating your symptoms. These are particularly useful in the early days of your injury. Once your initial pain and inflammation has begun to settle, strengthening exercises will commence, focusing on your postural muscles, as well as the muscles that stabilize your shoulder.
In time, your rehabilitation will become more goal orientated, focusing on helping you to achieve the level of
activity you were able to do prior to your injury. Your osteopath will guide you through your exercises at a
rate appropriate to your recovery.
Download our patient information sheet on acromio-clavicular joint injuries