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Shoulder separation treatment in Burr Ridge

Also serving Plainfield, Morris and surrounding areas

Procedure Arthroscopic, Outpatient
Torn ligaments are repaired and the Clavicle and Shoulder blade are re-connected with either sutures or metal screw
Duration1.5 hours
AnesthesiaGeneral
Recovery Sling for 4–6 weeks
Physical Therapy for 2–3 months
Return to work depends on type of work
Return to full sports generally 4–5 months.

More about Shoulder Separation/ AC Joint Injury

At the top of the shoulder there is a connecting joint between the outer end of the Collar Bone and the upper portion of the Shoulder Blade. This small joint is called the Acromio-clavicular (AC) joint and is often injured in contact sports such as football or with a direct blow of any kind to this area.  This is commonly referred to as a shoulder separation. This is different than a shoulder dislocation in which the ball and socket become separated.

Injury may range from a sprain or bruise, to an actual separation of the Collar Bone from the Shoulder Blade. The majority of these injuries are treated without surgery. If the bones are severely separated, then surgical repair may be required to reposition the bones.

There are 6 Grades of AC Joint injury with Grades I-III typically treated without surgery. Grades IV through VI generally require surgery to repair the torn ligaments and reposition the Clavicle and the Shoulder Blade back to their normal anatomical position.  Earlier treatment gives the best prognosis for stable repair of the AC joint after injury.  Cases that are chronic (greater than 2-3 months old) have less ability for natural healing and require more extensive reconstructive procedures which are less successful in stabilizing the joint.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shoulder Separation/AC Joint Injuries

What is the difference between a shoulder separation and a shoulder dislocation?

A shoulder separation refers to an injury of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint that connects the end of the collarbone and the upper shoulder blade. A shoulder dislocation occurs when the top of the arm bone and the socket of the shoulder blade lose contact with each other.

How does the AC joint get injured?

The AC joint can be injured by a direct blow to the shoulder or by falling onto the shoulder or onto an outstretched arm.

Sometimes the AC joint can become injured due to repeated use over time that puts too much stress on the joint. Repeated heavy lifting or other tasks that require the arms to stretch overhead can wear down the cartilage of the joint and lead to an injury.

What are the symptoms of a shoulder separation?

Shoulder separation/AC joint injuries can cause the following symptoms:

  • Pain and swelling in the shoulder
  • Tenderness around the top of the shoulder
  • A noticeable lump or deformity on the top of the shoulder
  • Loss of shoulder motion or strength
  • An audible popping noise when moving the shoulder joint

How do doctors diagnose an AC joint injury?

When diagnosing a shoulder separation, Dr. Burt and Dr. Treacy take down a complete patient history, noting the onset, nature and frequency of symptoms. The doctors inquire whether the patient is unable to perform any activities because of shoulder pain or symptoms. They will also look for any external factors that could cause or contribute to the pain.

Dr. Burt and Dr. Treacy perform a physical examination of the shoulder and take X-rays of the shoulder to determine the severity of the injury.

What are non-surgical treatments for shoulder separation?

Non-surgical treatments for shoulder separation include resting the shoulder (i.e., putting the arm in a sling to minimize movement) and icing the shoulder. Anti-inflammatory medications can help alleviate pain.

Physical therapy is also crucial for improving shoulder movement, strength and range of motion and reducing shoulder pain when performing daily movements and activities. Functional training can help patients retrain their shoulder movements and positions during more demanding activities without putting too much strain on the AC joint.

How is shoulder separation treated surgically?

For more severe shoulder separations, Dr. Burt and Dr. Treacy can perform shoulder surgery to reposition the collarbone and shoulder blade normally and repair injured ligaments of the joint. 

What does the recovery from shoulder surgery entail?

Recovery details vary depending on the type of surgery performed. In general, most patients must immobilize the shoulder and use a sling for approximately four weeks after surgery. There are restrictions on shoulder motion, heavy lifting and overhead movements while the shoulder initially heals. Dr. Burt and Dr. Treacy provide a specific recovery timeline based on the patient, the nature of his or her injury and the specific treatment plan.

A physical therapy program is typically recommended after surgery to restore normal movement, strength and range of motion to the shoulder.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Orthopaedic surgeons Dr. David Burt and Dr. Stephen Treacy have many years of experience treating patients who suffer from shoulder injuries, including shoulder dislocation and shoulder separation. During an appointment, the doctors will evaluate the extent of injury and make recommendations for treatment. If you have suffered a shoulder separation, schedule an appointment at Midwest Sports Medicine Institute in Burr Ridge by calling (630) 455-2000, in Plainfield by calling (815) 267-8825, or in Morris by calling (815) 941-1885. Dr. Burt and Dr. Treacy are proud to provide advanced care to patients from Naperville, Joliet, Aurora, and throughout the Chicago area.

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