Treatment Options For AC Joint Fractures

An AC joint dislocation is a common shoulder injury that occurs when there is trauma that tears the bony projection of the shoulder and the acromion of the mandible. Sports injuries, a direct blow to the shoulder, and falls are common causes. This leads to severe pain, swelling, and tenderness near the top of the shoulder blade, and sometimes obvious abnormalities near the top of the shoulder blade. It requires a physical examination by a doctor, and x-rays are taken to make the diagnosis.

Non-Surgical Methods

  • RICE Therapy: Use rest, ice, compression, and elevation to reduce swelling and ease pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Use prescription medication to manage pain and swelling.
  • Immobilization: Wear a sling or brace to stabilize the shoulder joint and prevent further injury.
  • Exercises: Engage in exercises aimed at strengthening and extending the shoulder muscles to improve stability and mobility.

Surgical Intervention

  • Joint Restoration: If the fracture is severe, surgery may be necessary to realign the wrist and acromion.
  • Ligament Repair: Surgeons can repair tissue damage to restore stability to the AC joint.
  • Joint Reconstruction: Severely damaged joints can be reconstructed with dental implants or synthetic materials.

Rehabilitation And Physical Therapy

  • Postoperative Rehabilitation: Postoperative rehabilitation and physical therapy sessions are critical to restoring strength, mobility, and function of the shoulder.
  • Muscle Strengthening: Emphasize exercises to strengthen shoulder muscles and improve joint stability.
  • Movement Exercises: Incorporate stretching and movement exercises to improve the flexibility and mobility of your shoulder joints.

Long-Term Management

  • Follow-Up: Regular follow-up with health care professionals is needed to check progress and address any concerns.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Good posture and ergonomic habits can help prevent future injuries.
  • Functional Modification: Modification of activity or sports participation to reduce the risk of recurrence of AC joint dislocation.

Recovery And Rehabilitation Process

  • Initial Rest And Immobilization: Rest the injured shoulder to allow muscles to recover. Use a sling or brace to stabilize the shoulder joint to relieve extra pressure and provide stability.
  • Gradual Movement Exercises: Start with gentle movement exercises under the guidance of a physiotherapist to maintain stability and flexibility. Increase the range of motion as slowly as possible to allow your shoulder to return to its full range of motion.
  • Strength Training: Start with exercises that strengthen the shoulder muscles to rebuild muscle strength and stabilize the joint. Focus on exercises that target the rotator cuff muscles and the muscles around the shoulder girdle.
  • Functional Rehabilitation: Incorporate functional exercises that mimic daily activities to improve shoulder function and prepare you to return to normal activities. Activities include lifting, reaching, and walking.
  • Pain Management: Pain management strategies such as ice packs, heat therapy, or appropriate medications were used to minimize discomfort during rehabilitation.
  • Progressive Return To Activity: Slowly return to activity and sports activities, from low-impact exercise to vigorous movement. Follow a structured return-to-play program to reduce the risk of re-injury.
  • Continued Monitoring And Follow-up: Monitor continuous improvement and adjust rehabilitation programs as needed. Attend follow-up appointments with health care providers to ensure appropriate treatment is provided and to check for any complications.
  • Patient Education: Teach patients proper shoulder technology, injury prevention techniques, and ways to maintain long-term shoulder health.

Preventive Measures To Reduce The Risk Of AC Joint Dislocation

While some AC joint dislocations can be unavoidable, individuals can take proactive steps to reduce their risk of injury.

  • Wear Protective Equipment: Use appropriate safety gear during falls, crashes, or high-risk sports or activities to protect the shoulder joint.
  • Shoulder Muscle Strengthening: Engage in shoulder strengthening exercises regularly to improve stability and reduce the chances of tears.
  • Maintain Good Posture: Use good posture when sitting, standing, and lifting to reduce unnecessary stress on the shoulder joints and reduce the risk of injury.


In conclusion, dislocation of the AC joint can cause severe pain, discomfort, and loss of mobility. To have the best chance of recovery, appropriate treatment should include an accurate diagnosis and treatment for specific conditions. Rehabilitation is necessary to heal a shoulder injury and restore strength and function, regardless of surgical or non-surgical treatment. By implementing preventative strategies and focusing on shoulder health, people can reduce the chances of tearing their AC joints and move forward with a more confident and safe active lifestyle.


Q1: What are the common causes of AC joint dislocation?

A: AC Joint dislocation typically occurs due to direct trauma or a fall onto the shoulder. Common causes include sports injuries such as football tackles or rugby collisions, motor vehicle accidents, or simply slipping and falling onto an outstretched hand. The force of impact can stretch or tear the ligaments connecting the collarbone and the acromion, leading to a dislocated joint.

Q2: How long does it take to recover from an AC joint dislocation?

A: The period of recovery for an AC joint dislocation varies based on the injury's severity and the chosen method of care. When mild to severe cases are treated non-surgically, patients can return to their regular activities in a few weeks to a few months, as long as they get the right rest, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. On the other hand, a longer recovery time following surgical intervention for severe dislocations may be necessary, lasting anywhere from several months to a year or longer. During the healing phase, physical therapy and rehabilitation are essential for regaining shoulder functionality.

Know Your Doctor
Dr. Prashant Parate – Consultant AC Joint Dislocation Treatment

Dr. Prashant Parate is a renowned orthopaedic surgeon and has special interest in shoulder surgeries and sports injuries. Dr. Prashant Parate has dedicated his career to offering specialized services in sports medicine with a keen interest in arthroscopy, trauma, and arthroplasty treatments for Shoulder disorders.

Find out more
Dr. Prashant Parate