What is Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain?
The collarbone and the shoulder blade are connected by the acromioclavicular joint. This is supported by a strong band of ligaments called the acromioclavicular and coracoclavicular ligaments. These ligaments are tightly wound around the bones, providing strength and support to the joint. An injury or tear of these ligaments can result in an acromioclavicular joint sprain.
Causes of Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain
Common causes of an acromioclavicular joint sprain include:
- Involuntary twisting of the joint during routine activities
- Traumatic injury to the joint due to fall or an accident
- Participation in contact sports such as alpine skiing, jet skiing, football, rugby, and wrestling.
Symptoms of Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain
Signs and symptoms of an acromioclavicular sprain include:
- Slight swelling and tenderness at the outside tip of your collar bone
- Joint stiffness
Diagnosis of Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain
Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and perform a thorough physical examination to assess the range of motion, stability, and strength of the muscle. Additional diagnostic tests may be ordered, including X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to identify bone and soft tissue abnormalities.
Treatment for Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain
Conservative treatment methods are usually quite effective in minor cases; however severe acromioclavicular ligament injuries will need surgical intervention. The common treatment methods include:
- Medications: These include prescribed anti-inflammatory pain medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen, that may help reduce the swelling and pain.
- Rest: You will be instructed to avoid activities that might trigger pain and to use a sling to immobilize your shoulder and arm if needed.
- Application of ice packs: An ice pack can be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time to help reduce swelling and pain.
- Physical therapy: You may be advised to practice specific exercises on a daily basis to help regain your shoulder strength.
Most people are able to return to their normal functions and contact sports after 3 months of conservative treatment with almost no symptoms.
Surgical treatment methods are usually reserved for cases of severe acromioclavicular joint injury. Your surgeon will make small incisions over the joint, through which specialized instruments will be inserted to repair and reattach torn ligaments and stabilize the bones. Normally, the surgery is followed by a brief period of rehabilitation to help restore joint strength, motion, and flexibility.
Prevention of Acromioclavicular Joint Sprains
Sprains and other shoulder injuries can be prevented to some extent by using proper protective gear during sports and other physical activities. In cases where the sprain has already occurred, rest and strengthening exercises should be practiced after consulting with your doctor to avoid a worsening of the condition.
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