We've all seen it on TV before: a hockey player is checked into the boards, they get up grimacing and holding their shoulder and skate off the ice. The dreaded Separated Shoulder or 'Acromio-clavicular' joint sprain, which more commonly will occur after someone falls onto their shoulder from a height. What is this shoulder injury, and how is it different from a dislocation?
The acromio-clavicular joint is the connection between the collar-bone and the shoulder blade. When there is downward force applied to top of the shoulder blade, the ligaments holding this joint together will tear, causing a separation between the two bones. This is completely different from a dislocated shoulder, when the upper arm comes out of the shoulder socket.
After a shoulder separation a patient will commonly feel widespread pain, especially at night. Over time the pain will localize at the tip of the collarbone, often forming a step-like deformity. You will also find widespread weakness of the shoulder muscles along with swelling. These injuries are graded 1-6, depending on the extent of damage to the shoulder ligaments. Grades 1 - 3 can be treated conservatively with rehab, while Grades 4 - 6 usually require surgery.
Check back next week for how to treat shoulder separations:
Milner Chiropractic and Sports Injury Clinic