About AC Joint Injury

What is it and what are your treatment options?
Anchorage: (907) 562-2277
Wasilla: (907) 357-2267
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What is an AC Joint Injury?

The acromion of the scapula (shoulder blade) and clavicle (collarbone) form the AC joint. The AC joint rests on the top of the shoulder—protecting it and helping it move. AC joint injuries occur with the ligament that connects the acromion and clavicle is sprained or torn.

Common Causes:

  • A direct blow to the shoulder
  • Fall
  • Athletes who participate in contact sports and active individuals are most at risk.

Common symptoms of an AC joint injury may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • A visible deformity
  • Bruising

An AC joint separation, which is commonly referred to as a shoulder separation, is the most common type of AC joint injury.

Orthopedic Physicians Alaska (OPA) team of shoulder specialists use a step-by-step diagnostic approach to diagnose AC joint injuries:

  • A detailed description of how the injury occurred is obtained
  • Symptoms are reviewed
  • A physical examination is performed
  • Medical imaging studies (multiple view X-rays and possibly an MRI) are ordered and analyzed

AC joint injuries are classified as Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3. Grade 1 is slight displacement of the joint. Grade 2 is partial dislocation of the joint. Grade 3 is complete joint separation.
After the injury is diagnosed and classified, an OPA specialist prescribes a customized treatment plan.

Common Treatments:

An accurate diagnosis and classification are essential for proper treatment. Nonsurgical treatment options treat Grade 1 and most Grade 2 AC joint injuries:

RICE Method

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

Decrease inflammation and pain.


A sling immobilizes the shoulder so the injury can heal.

Activity Modification

Decreases the risk of symptom flare-ups and future injuries.

Surgery may be recommended to treat injuries that cause severe symptoms, function loss, and anatomical deformities. An OPA specialist repairs the torn ligament during an AC joint reconstruction. Suture anchors are used to repair the ligament and reattach it to the bones. You will regain strength and function during physical therapy after surgery.

At OPA, our Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Surgeons are experts in diagnosing and treating AC joint injuries.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain and would like a treatment solution you should contact OPA to schedule an appointment at any of our convenient locations in Anchorage and Eagle River.

Schedule An Appointment

To receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan, please make an appointment with one of our Orthopedic Team Specialists at our offices conveniently located in Anchorage and Wasilla, AK.
Anchorage: (907) 562-2277
Wasilla: (907) 357-2267

OPA Shoulder Team

(click a provider to view profile)

Owen Ala, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Deryk Anderson, DO

Orthopedic Specialist

Tucker Drury, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Adam Ellison, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Robert Hall, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Christopher Manion, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Jeff Moore, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Eli Powell, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Greg Schweiger, MD

Orthopedic Specialist

Our Mission

To provide the finest orthopedic surgery and musculoskeletal care in North America, offering general and specialized adult care to all Alaskans and visitors.


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