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AC Joint Separation Treatment Options

What are the treatments for shoulder separation?

Treatment options depend upon the severity of the injury. Mild to moderate injuries may be treated conservatively, while more severe injuries may require surgery. Most people including athletes can return to normal function with non-surgical management.

What are the non-surgical treatment options?

Non-surgical treatment options include:

  1. Rest and immobilization: Mild AC joint separations may be treated with rest, ice, and immobilization of the shoulder joint with a sling or brace. This helps to reduce pain and inflammation and allows the ligaments to heal.
  2. Physical therapy: Once the pain and inflammation have subsided, physical therapy exercises can be performed to help regain strength, mobility, and function of the shoulder joint.
  3. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These medications can be used to help reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint.
  4. Corticosteroid injections: When patients have chronic pain that doesn’t respond to conservative measures, joint injections can provide significant relief.

What are the surgical treatment options for shoulder separation?

There are a wide range of available new surgical procedures depending on whether treating an acute injury or chronic defined as initial trauma that occurred more than 3 weeks ago.

  1. Mumford procedure: This surgical procedure involves removing a small portion of the distal end of the clavicle to relieve pressure on the AC joint. This can help to reduce pain and improve function in the shoulder joint.
  2. Tightrope fixation: This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a high-strength fiber wire to hold the collarbone in place while it heals. The procedure involves making small incisions in the shoulder and threading the wire through the clavicle and scapula. The wire is then tightened and secured to hold the collarbone in its proper position.
  3. AC Joint reconstruction: This is a surgical procedure that involves the use of a tissue graft to reconstruct the damaged ligaments. The graft may be obtained from the patient’s own body (autograft) or a donor (allograft).

The choice of surgery will depend on various factors, such as the severity of the AC joint separation, the patient’s age, activity level, and overall health, and the goals of treatment.

Rehabilitation after AC joint surgery

Rehabilitation after AC joint surgery typically involves:

  1. Immobilization: After surgery, the shoulder may be immobilized with a sling or brace for several weeks to allow the tissues to heal.
  2. Gentle range-of-motion exercises: Once the sling or brace is removed, gentle range-of-motion exercises can be performed to help improve mobility in the shoulder joint.
  3. Strengthening exercises: As the shoulder continues to heal, strengthening exercises can be added to the rehabilitation program. These may include exercises to target the rotator cuff muscles, as well as other muscles of the shoulder, arm, and upper back.
  4. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can work with the patient to develop an individualized rehabilitation program that is tailored to their specific needs and goals. This may include exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and balance, as well as manual therapy techniques to help reduce pain and improve function.
  5. The timing of return to activity will depend on the type of surgery performed, as well as the patient’s progress during rehabilitation. Patients may need to avoid certain activities or sports for a period of time after surgery and may need to gradually increase their level of activity over time.

Dr. Jonathan Godin is a renowned board-certified orthopedic surgeon and a leader in sports medicine. He received fellowship training in advanced arthroscopic and reconstructive surgical techniques for the treatment of complex orthopedic and sports related injuries at the distinguished Steadman Clinic in Vail Colorado. Contact Dr. Godin at his Vail, Frisco, or Edwards, Colorado office to schedule a consultation to receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options.

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