What is a separated shoulder?

A separated shoulder occurs when the ligaments between the collarbone (clavicle) and part of the shoulder blade (acromion) are torn. The tear loosens the joint connection between the collarbone and shoulder blade, causing them to separate or move apart from one other. A separated shoulder does not actually involve damage to the main ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder.

Other names for this condition are acromioclavicular joint separation or AC joint separation. These names reflect the medical references for the collarbone (clavicle), and the outer end of the scapula (acromion) that extends over the shoulder joint at its highest point.

Who is affected by a separated shoulder?

A separated shoulder can affect anyone regardless of age, ethnic background, physical health or level of fitness.

What causes a separated shoulder?

Most shoulder separations are caused by falling directly onto the shoulder with enough force to tear ligaments. Besides falls, car accidents and sports injuries are frequent causes.

What are the symptoms of a separated shoulder?

  • Pain at the very top of the shoulder.
  • A bump on the top of the shoulder at the end of the collarbone. As a result of torn ligaments, the shoulder blade moves downward from the weight of the arm, causing the top end of the collarbone to protrude up.

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