Acromio-Clavicular (AC) Joint Injury

Acromio-Clavicular (AC) Joint Injury

What is the AC joint?

The Acromio-clavicular(AC) joint is formed by the acromion of the scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collar bone). There are several  ligaments which can be of importance in AC joint injuries:
  1. the acromio-clavicualr ligament - or the AC joint capsule.
  2. the coracoclavicular or CC ligament which joins the clavicle to the coracoid process which is another forward protruding part of the scapula. There are two distinct bands to this ligament. 
  3.  the coracoacromial ligament attaches the acromion process to the coracoid process.

What is an AC joint injury?

AC joint sprains occur whent the ligaments described above are either partially or completely torn. There are many different grades of AC joint injury ranging from very mild (grade 1) to severe (grade 6) . 

The most common way of injuring the AC joint is by landing on the shoulder, elbow, or onto an outstretched hand. When you fall you automatically place your hand out to break the fall. The forces are then transmitted up the wrist and arm to the shoulder joint.

Symptoms of an AC joint injury include pain over the AC joint, a loss of range of motion in the shoulder - especially across your body and above your head, an inability to lie on the shoulder, and swelling/deformity over the AC joint.  

How do we treat AC joint injuries?

Depending on the grade of injury the treatment will vary. It is best to get advice from a physiotherapist to ensure you receive the correct advice. Your injury will typically take 4-6 weeks to heal and over this time there will be a variety of treatment options:
  • Strapping
  • Massage
  • Use of a sling/immobilisation
  • Active range of motion exercises to increase flexibility
  • Strengthening exercises for your shoulder and scapula stabilisers
  • A graduated return to sport and contact training


    Roslyn Physio 287 Highgate Roslyn, Dunedin 9010
  • P: 03 477 1744
  • F: 03 471 8598
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