Physical Therapy Goals for AC Joint Injuries
Located at the highest point of the shoulder, the acromioclavicular joint (or AC joint) connects the clavicle (collarbone) and the acromion, which is part of the scapula or shoulder blade. A painful AC joint dislocation can result from a sports accident, fall, or other trauma — leaving your shoulder dislocated.
The severity of an AC joint separation is commonly classified as one of three types:
A slightly torn AC ligament with no damage to the coracoclavicular (CC) ligament.
A completely torn AC ligament with little to no CC ligament tears.
Completely torn AC and CC ligaments resulting in a collarbone separated from the shoulder blade.
AC Joint Injury Treatment
Type I and II AC joint injuries can be treated by immobilizing the injured joint with an arm sling after the shoulder is positioned back into place. In severe Type III cases, torn AC and CC ligaments will not heal without surgery. While a treatment involving ice, pain killers, and a sling can help provide immediate pain and swelling relief following an AC joint injury, physical therapy is often recommended.
Benefits of AC Joint Physical Therapy
For all AC joint injuries, physical therapy may be necessary in order to return your AC joint back to proper working condition. Benefits include:
- Reduced soreness, swelling, pain and inflammation
- Increased reach, raise, and range of motion
- Restored strength around the shoulder joint and ability to lift and pull
- Improved posture and reduced shoulder, neck, and back strain
Duration of AC Joint Physical Therapy
The length of your physical therapy depends on the severity of your AC joint injury. For Type I and II injuries, it may take two to three weeks to adequately heal. If surgery is necessary to correct your AC joint separation, then physical therapy could last anywhere between in eight and 12 weeks.
After your physical therapy is complete, it’s important to follow your physical therapist’s orders. You may also want to continue your stretches and exercises. Just be mindful not to increase your lifting and pulling weight too quickly, as reinjury is a high possibility.
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain due to an AC joint injury, request an appointment online to meet with one of our shoulder specialists or call (904) 825-0540. Following diagnosis and treatment of your condition, our physicians may refer you to our skilled physical and occupational therapists.
Ryan Hemelt – DPT, MOTR/L
Director of Rehabilitation, overseeing all physical therapy, occupational therapy, athletic training, and sports medicine outreach programs.