AC Joint Sprain

An Overview on an AC Joint Sprain

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. A fairly common shoulder injury among active individuals, an AC joint sprain occurs when the connective tissue and ligaments of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint become torn. Shoulder specialist serving patients in the greater Austin, Texas area, Dr. Jeff Padalecki specializes in diagnosing and treating shoulder pain associated with AC joint shoulder sprains.

The acromioclavicular joint is responsible for connecting the shoulder blade to the clavicle. The soft tissues in and around the joint have the possibility to tear when put under extreme stress during sports activities or a work activity. When a tear occurs in the soft tissues, it is classified as an AC joint sprain. Ranging from a small sprain causing minimal shoulder pain to a severe sprain causing extreme pain, instability and deformity, a shoulder sprain in the AC joint can lead to a variety of symptoms.

AC Joint Sprain Symptoms

The most common symptom of an AC joint sprain is a sudden onset of shoulder pain located at the top of the shoulder joint. The pain may increase during certain activities such as heavy lifting, overhead movements, pushing and pulling movements and 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 and ligaments.

AC Joint Sprain Diagnostic Testing

Dr. Padalecki will perform a thorough physical examination and ask questions about a patient’s medical history and when the injury occurred in order to diagnosis a shoulder sprain of the AC joint. He will also move the injured shoulder to determine areas of pain, instability and weakness. X-rays and an MRI may also be performed to determine the extent of the AC joint sprain, rule out any other possible shoulder injuries and confirm the diagnosis.

AC Joint Sprain Treatment

An AC joint sprain can typically heal in several weeks without the need of a surgical procedure. Dr. Padalecki typically begins treatment with non-surgical measures such as ice, rest, activity modifications, shoulder immobilization in a sling and a physical therapy program.

If non-surgical measures do not alleviate the shoulder pain and other symptoms, Dr. Padalecki may recommend a surgical treatment. There are numerous surgical procedures utilized to treat an AC joint sprain, including arthroscopic AC repair. Dr. Padalecki performs this surgery with the use of an arthroscopic camera as well as a small incision at the top of the shoulder to secure the collarbone back to its normal position by attaching very strong sutures to the collarbone and front of the shoulder blade.

AC Joint Sprain Post-Op

Patients will start shoulder motion under the direction of a therapist immediately following surgery. Patients will be asked to wear a sling for protection for several weeks following surgery. Eventually, after the ligaments heal, patients will be allowed to progressively strengthen the shoulder and discard the sling. Return to sporting activities usually occurs around 3 to 4 months after surgery.

For additional information on an AC joint sprain, please contact Dr. Jeff Padalecki, orthopedic shoulder specialist in the Austin, Texas area.

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