Separated shoulder

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Separated shoulder


What is a separated shoulder?



A separated shoulder is actually a separation of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which is located where the top of your shoulder blade meets the end of your collarbone. The most common cause of a separated shoulder is a fall directly on the shoulder. This stretches or tears the ligaments that stabilize the AC joint.

A doctor may confirm a diagnosis of a separated shoulder by:

  • Physical examination
  • X-rays of the shoulder

The majority of shoulder separations aren't serious. Treatment may include:

  • Applying ice
  • Temporary use of an arm sling
  • Pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications
  • Rehabilitation exercises

In rare cases, a severely separated shoulder may require surgery. Most people with a separated shoulder have no lasting impairment of shoulder function.



The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is located between the collarbone (clavicle) and an extension of the shoulder blade called the acromion. The joint is stabilized by ligaments.

Separated shoulder

Separated shoulder

A separated shoulder involves tearing of the ligaments around the acromioclavicular (AC) joint that may be caused by a direct or indirect blow to the shoulder. A more severe shoulder separation (shown above) completely tears both the AC and coracoclavicular ligaments and may cause a visible "bump" at the top of the shoulder.

Last Updated: 02/22/2006
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