What is a Separated Shoulder?
A shoulder separation is an injury to the acromioclavicular joint on the top of the shoulder. The shoulder joint is formed at the junction of three bones: the collarbone (clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the arm bone (humerus). The scapula and clavicle form the socket of the joint, and the humerus has a round head that fits within this socket. The clavicle forms a joint with the scapula at the top of the shoulder referred to as the A.C. joint. This joint can be separated by falling on an outstretched arm or repeated heavy lifting. It is not the same injury as a dislocated shoulder. A dislocated shoulder is when the upper arm bone which forms the ball part of the shoulder joint dislocates from the shoulder cup.
The amount of space between in the A.C. joint separation is how we grade the significance of the injury. Some separations are so great that we tear ligaments and surgery is required for repair. Others are less severe and can be managed with chiropractic and home exercise routines. The most common symptom is pain on the top of the shoulder right on the bone. It can become even tenderer when heavy weight is carried. If you suspect a separation is occurring we can evaluate it at the office and prescribe special X-rays if needed to properly grade the injury.