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AC Sprain and How to Recover

by Athletico3 Comments

The shoulder is an important joint that is used throughout daily life. Once it becomes injured it can be very difficult to maintain a normal lifestyle. One joint effected by shoulder injury is the acromioclavicularjoint or more commonly referred to as the AC joint.

Your AC joint is the attachment site of your collarbone (clavicle) and your acromion (knob/tip of your AC sprainshoulder). It is held together by three ligaments which are acromioclavicular, coracoclavicular, and the coracoacromial ligaments. When direct force is applied to the areas stated above, injury to one or multiple of the ligaments can cause AC joint pain and instability. AC sprains are a common injury that can occur from a number of different reasons.

Two of the most common ways people injure their AC joint is by falling on an outstretched arm or falling directly on the tip of the shoulder.  Another way to people sprain an AC joint is to run directly into something, such as a tree while skiing, with great force.  Contact sports such as football, wrestling and rugby commonly see AC joint injuries due to the velocity in which athletes fall or take a hit.

There are many different grades of AC sprains. Grades range from 1-6, 1 being least severe level of instability that occurs at this joint. There are many similar signs and symptoms occur that you should be aware of to properly assess this injury and get professional help.

Some of the signs and symptoms are:

  • point tenderness
  • swelling
  • decreased range of motion secondary to pain
  • decreased strength.

When an injury like this occurs it is important to get an x-ray to determine the severity of the injury.

Once a patient gets an x-ray from a doctor, the normal course of action for recovery is to be placed in a sling for a specified period of time. Also, be sure to rest the shoulder, ice and NSAIDS (Advil/Ibuprofen) for reducing pain and swelling. Depending on the severity of the injury, many doctors will prescribe physical therapy to help work on reducing pain, strengthening and range of motion. Physical therapists can also add taping techniques while you are healing, such as AC tape or Kinesiotape, to support the ligaments as the shoulder recovers.

If you do sustain an AC sprain the most important thing is to rest and follow doctor’s orders. Once you are cleared to do so, contact your nearest Athletico physical therapy to start your range of motion and strengthening exercises to recover from this injury.

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  1. Calvin

    I have a little bump where the collarbone meets the shoulder I realized it felt bigger then the other so Im asking I have no pain and have pretty good movement and it’s a little swollen but all thou my pain from 1 – 10 is a .5

  2. Wanda Kelley

    I got the results back from my X-rays .. Said I had AC joint injury .. I knew my shoulder and forearm would hurt really bad when I moved it a certain way . Honestly I don’t know when I hurt it ,unless it was from lifting something heavy . I am waiting to see an Orthopedic Dr . All my family Dr told me to do is taking pain pills / muscle relaxers. I have not taking any pain mess yet .. but I do take the muscle relaxers every night .. I am so ready to get this taken care of . Any pointers will be welcome … Thanks !!!


    Hi Wanda,
    In general, the AC joint injury might occur by overuse of the joint as it was in my case doing different sports. Any repeated exercise with weight above the head might cause it. I restrained from doing any movement that produces pain but, I continued doing exercise. For me, the ice pack over the joint works well and ibuprofen. Now, I am starting to move more the arm and gentle mobilizing the arm suspended next to the thorax in all directions and I will progress to do this with Theraband. The orthopedic Dr. only will send you to physio because they do not have much to do, only in cases of major rupture that I do not think is your case.

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