Acromioclavicular Joint Injury

What is the AC joint?

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is a joint in the shoulder girdle that connects the acromion process of the scapula (shoulder blade) to the clavicle (collarbone). The AC joint stabilizes the shoulder girdle during many activities that involve overhead movements of the arms, such as throwing a ball, lifting weights, or reaching for objects. Injuries to the AC joint, such as a separation or dislocation, can cause pain, decrease mobility in the shoulder, and reduce support within the shoulder girdle

What causes AC Joint Injury?

Contact Sports: athletes involved in contact sports, such as football, hockey, basketball and rugby, are at higher risk for sustaining impact to the AC joint.

Falls: falling directly on the shoulder can cause displacement of the AC joint.

Car Accidents: direct trauma to the shoulder can occur during a car accident, especially in cases where the driver or passenger’s shoulder is impacted by the steering wheel or dashboard.

Repetitive overhead movements of the shoulder exerts tension onto the AC joint. For example, shooting a basketball stresses the AC joint. Overtime, this may lead to a weakening of the ligament.

How does physiotherapy Treat AC Joint Injury

Improve shoulder Function

During the assessment, your therapist will determine the severity of your AC joint injury and create a treatment plan to improve your shoulder function. Your therapist will provide treatments, prescribe exercises, and educate you on how to safely  improve your range of motion, strength, and stability.

management Strategies

Myofascial release: to reduce pain, tightness, and inflammation of the muscles, joints, nerves, and fascia of the affected areas.

Joint mobilization: to promote smooth joint movement and mobility of the shoulder, shoulder blade, and clavicle.

Movement pattern conditioning: optimizing stability and movement mechanics by properly recruiting the shoulder muscles such as deltoids, rotator cuffs, and other relevant stabilizers.

Stretching: to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension in the shoulder.

Strengthening: to improve the activation and stability of the muscles in the shoulder which can restore optimal function and help reduce the risk of future injuries.

Home exercise program: individualized exercise prescription to restore optimal and balanced movement.

Acupuncture: use of thin needles to improve local and systemic function, regulate the nervous system, and promote the body’s natural healing processes.

Heat and cold therapy: to manage reduce pain and tension or control inflammation.

Electrostimulation: use of electrical currents to stimulate muscles and reduce pain.

Ultrasound: use of high-frequency sound waves to produce deep tissue heating to reduce muscle tension, fascial tension, and inflammation.

Laser therapy: to improve blood flow, reduce pain and inflammation, and promote tissue healing.

Taping reduces the stress on the AC joint and enables faster healing.

Recommendations regarding lifestyle and activity modifications, posture, and sleeping position, to help reduce load, risk of recurrence, and further injury.

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