The acromioclavicular (AC) joint, though a small and often overlooked component of the shoulder complex, plays a pivotal role in upper body movement and function. The AC joint, situated at the top of the shoulder, is formed by the meeting of the acromion, a bony projection on the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone). This joint facilitates a wide range of shoulder movements, including lifting and rotating the arm.
Injury to the AC joint can be debilitating and painful. Dr. Michael Bercik, a renowned orthopedic surgeon at Lancaster Orthopedic Group, is an expert in assessing and treating such injuries. His extensive training, including fellowships in trauma and reconstructive surgery and specialized focus on shoulder and elbow conditions, places him at the forefront of orthopedic care. Patients under Dr. Bercik’s care can expect a holistic approach, combining the latest surgical techniques with personalized rehabilitation plans.
Common Injuries to the AC Joint
AC joint injuries are often seen in athletes, particularly those involved in contact sports, but can also occur due to falls or accidents. These injuries are categorized into grades ranging from mild sprains (Grade 1) to complete dislocations (Grade 6).
- AC Joint Sprain (Shoulder Separation): This is the most common injury to the AC joint, often resulting from a direct blow to the shoulder. Symptoms include pain at the top of the shoulder, swelling, and decreased strength and mobility.
- AC Joint Arthritis: Over time, the AC joint can develop osteoarthritis, leading to joint pain and stiffness, particularly when reaching across the body or lifting the arm.
Diagnosis and Treatment of AC Joint Injuries
Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination, during which the doctor assesses tenderness, swelling, and range of motion. Imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans confirm the diagnosis and determine the injury’s severity.
Treatment depends on the injury’s severity and the patient’s activity level. Options include:
- Conservative Treatment:
- Conservative treatments like rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) are effective for minor injuries.
- Pain relief medications and physical therapy focusing on shoulder strength and flexibility are also recommended.
- A sling may be used briefly to immobilize and protect the joint.
- Surgical Treatment:
- Surgery may be considered for more severe injuries, especially in athletes or individuals with high physical demands.
- Surgical options include open surgery or arthroscopy to repair or reconstruct the ligaments.
- Post-surgery, rehabilitation is crucial for restoring function and strength.
Rehabilitation and Recovery
Recovery time varies based on the injury’s severity and treatment. Physical therapy is essential in all cases, helping to regain strength, improve flexibility, and ensure a full return to activities.
Preventive measures include strengthening the shoulder muscles, using proper techniques during sports and activities, and wearing protective gear when necessary.
Recovery with Dr. Bercik
The acromioclavicular joint is vital for the functional movement of the shoulder. With appropriate care, including conservative management or surgical intervention and a dedicated rehabilitation program, most individuals can expect a return to their normal activities with full shoulder function. As with any joint injury, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for optimal recovery and preventing long-term complications.
If you suspect an AC joint injury, Dr. Michael Bercik is here to provide expert care every step of the way. Schedule a consultation online or call 717.560.4200 to start recovering today.