Injury: Shoulder Separation

What is a Shoulder Separation?
A shoulder separation or separated shoulder typically leads to damaged ligaments or tendons in the surrounding area. In most cases the shoulder separation occurs when the scapula and the clavicle come together and cause a disruption in what is classified as the Acromioclavicular Joint or AC Joint. A shoulder separation is different than a shoulder dislocation due to the humeral head remaining in socket during a separation. A separated shoulder is most often caused by a traumatic blow and is common in sports such as football, rugby and hockey.

Medical Definition of a Shoulder Separation
A shoulder separation is an acromioclavicular or AC injury that is often suffered as a result from a fall on the tip of the shoulder. When the acromion of the shoulder blade is driven into the ground, variable degrees of ligament damage can occur. Separated shoulder injuries are classified into one of six types based on the severity of the injury and degree of clavicle separation.

- Acromioclavicular Separation
- Separated Shoulder

What are the symptoms of a Shoulder Separation?
- Pain often suffered over the AC joint when lifting arm away from the body.
- With more severe separations there is a visual deformity.
- Tenderness located over the AC joint.
- Weakness in the arm of the injured shoulder.
- Numbness in the arm is possible but not common.

Related Injuries
- Shoulder Dislocation
Labrum Tear
Broken Collarbone

Treatment of Shoulder Separation
- Proper usage of NSAIDS to help alleviate pain.
Cold Therapy is helpful for the first 48 hours.
- Stabilize the shoulder with a sling or
brace; time depends on severity of the shoulder separation.
- Type1-3 injuries; shoulder separation treatment doesn't include surgery.
- Type 4-6 injuries; shoulder separation treatment typically involves surgery.
Strengthening exercises of the shoulder and arm once pain subsides.
- Light
exercises to help maintain range of motion.

- Labrum Repair

Related Anatomy

- Rotator Cuff
Shoulder Blade

- Football

Greene W.B. (Ed). (2001). Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care.Rosemont, Il: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (115-117)