Physical Therapy for Shoulder Separation
If you’ve experienced a shoulder injury, physical therapy for shoulder separation or AC separation needs to applied properly for best results. Over the years, our therapists have helped a number of patients who have suffered a shoulder separation, one of the most common sports injuries.
How Does Shoulder Separation Happen?
One of the more common injuries to the shoulder in sports is the AC separation. Injury to the AC area most often occurs as the result of an upended fall. In the fall, the top of your shoulder lands on the ground while the arm is held close to the body. The impact is to the top of the shoulder which pushes the shoulder blade down. The collarbone is firmly attached to the rib cage under the neck at the chest. The collarbone cannot move down with the shoulder blade, so your AC joint ligaments are forced to stretch or tear. The injury is more prevalent in football, hockey, rugby, biking, snowboarding and skiing.
What Happens with a Shoulder Separation?
Pain is present as soon as your injury occurs. This pain generally limits shoulder motion immediately. Swelling and bruising may occur. The end of the collarbone may look like a raised lump. If the area looks abnormal, an x-ray (often with a weight held in the hand) is taken to look for AC joint separation and possible collarbone fracture.
The AC joint is at the tip of your shoulder where the shoulder blade (scapula) joins the collarbone (clavicle). The joints are held together by strong, sinewy tissue called ligaments. There are actually two joints and two ligament groups in this area. The acromioclavicular ligaments surround the joint that forms a capsule over the area where the acromion of the scapula and clavicle meet. The other ligaments are the coracoclavicular ligaments. They hold your clavicle by attaching to a boney prominence on the shoulder blade called the coracoid process.
Between the clavicle and the acromion there is a pad of cartilage within the joint. There may be damage to the cartilage. It is a cushion that allows both gliding and twisting motions of one bone on the other. When your ligaments are completely torn, the end of the collarbone may lift out of place. The ligaments then are no longer holding the collarbone against the acromion of the shoulder blade.