AC Joint Shoulder Pain: See a Chiropractor First!

The shoulder is a complex region which is made up by a culmination of several joints. One of these joints that is perhaps the most prone to injury is that of the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint). The AC joint is made up of the part of the shoulder where the clavicle (collar bone) meets the scapula (shoulder blade). The joint is easily identified by a pointy protrusion near the top lateral aspect of the shoulder.

The joint is in the region of several muscular attachments; it is supported by 3 ligaments:

Acromioclavicular ligament- (superior and inferior) these ligaments attach the clavicle to the acromion of the scapula; below it is in direct relation with the rotator cuff, primarily the supraspinatus muscle.

Coaracoacromial ligament- extends from the coracoid process to the acromion.

Coracoclavicular ligament- composed of the deltoid and trapezoid ligaments. This ligament extends from the coracoid process of the scapula to the clavicle.

The joint allows one to move their arm above their head. Injury to the joint occurs most frequently in males in their early 20’s. Those who participate in sports that have frequent collisions such as football, hockey, wrestling, and rugby; also to those who participate in sports with repetitive above head arm motion, such as swimming and weight lifting are more prone to injury. Separation is also common in anyone who falls on an outstretched hand (FOOSH injuries).

Common complaints are tenderness at the point on the shoulder, pain when bringing the arm across the body, and also pain with above head arm movement.

There are VI different classes of injuries to the AC joint:
I. Badly stretched AC ligament with slight displacement.
II. Partial dislocation, tear of AC ligament and possible tear of coracoclavicular ligament.
III. Complete tear of the AC and CC ligaments. On X-ray the clavicle will appear superior to the acromion.
IV- VI. Complete disruption of all ligaments, and superior and posterior displacement of the clavicle.


Categories I, II and often times III are best managed via conservative care

How does Chiropractic help?

Conservative management of acute injuries shows an equally favorable outcome as compared to surgery with a decreased recovery time and earlier return to work and sport.

Chiropractic can help by balancing the surrounding muscles. Through myofascial release techniques I can release those muscles that are tight due to the trauma, and strengthen the weakened ones through prescribed therapeutic exercise. Additionally, through manipulation of the shoulder and spine we can assure one is balanced biomechanically by releasing the joints that aren’t moving properly to assure proper distribution of force on the muscles and proper movement patterns.

Try chiropractic first, avoid the pain of surgery!


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