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Q: What is a separated shoulder (acromioclavicular sprain)?

Posted January 08, 2014 in Advice Column, West Des Moines

bremner 2A: Acromioclavicular sprains (AC sprains) occur frequently in high-energy contact sports. The mechanism of injury is usually a direct blow to the side of the shoulder. The patient feels pain at the end of the collar bone.

Mild AC joint injuries cause little displacement of the collar bone and are manifested as some local swelling and pain to touch. More severe injuries are easily noticed by a huge bulge on the end of the clavicle.

Treatment of most shoulder separations are with a sling for comfort for a week or two, anti-inflammatories, ice and gentle motion. The ligaments heal in several weeks. An athlete’s pain level dictates how quickly he or she may return to sports. Infrequently, an AC joint injection can be used to improve pain in acute injuries.

Treatment of more severe injuries can include surgical options to place the collar bone in a more anatomic position. Full recovery for surgical intervention can take six months. Some patients initially treated without surgery have poor results. These patients may decide to have surgery in the future to place the clavicle back into a more functional position.

Information provided by Dr. Barron Bremner, Des Moines Orthopaedic Surgeons (DMOS), 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 213, Des Moines, 515-299-6363.

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