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Acromioclavicular Separation


An acromioclavicular (uh-kro-mee-o-kluh-vik-u-ler) injury is an injury that causes the shoulder and collarbone to change position. These bones move or come apart because the ligament (tissue) that holds the bones in place is stretched or torn. This injury is caused by falling on your shoulder. Or you may be injured from a blow to your upper body. You may have pain, swelling, stiffness, or numbness. Or you may have problems moving the arm on the injured side.


  • The most important part of treating an injured shoulder is resting it while it heals. Resting your shoulder lessens swelling and allows the injury to heal. When the pain decreases, begin normal, slow movements.
  • Ice causes blood vessels to constrict (get small) which helps lessen inflammation (swelling, pain, and redness). Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Put this on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as long as you need it. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite.
  • Caregivers may put a clavicle strap around your shoulders to keep the collarbone in the right position. Or you may need to use a figure-of-8 bandage or sling to hold the bone together.
    • Wear the strap or sling constantly for 6 to 8 weeks, even during sleep. You may remove the strap or sling for bathing or showering. Be sure to keep your shoulder in the same place as when the strap or sling is on. Do not lift your arm.
    • The strap or sling must be tightened by another person every day.
      • Have them tighten it enough to keep your shoulders held back in a soldier position.
      • Make sure they allow enough room to place their index finger between the body and strap.
      • Put a folded wash cloth in your arm pit to prevent pressure on the nerves by the shoulder strap.
      • Loosen the strap right away if you feel numbness or tingling in your hands.
  • Medicines:
    • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. If you think it is not helping or if you feel you are having side effects, call your caregiver. Do not quit taking it until you discuss it with your caregiver.
    • Keep a written list of what medicines you are taking and when you take them. Bring the list of your medicines or the pill bottles when you see your caregiver(s). Learn why you take each medicine. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicines.
    • You may use ibuprofen (i-bew-pro-fin) and acetaminophen (uh-c-tuh-min-o-fin) for your pain. These may be bought as over-the-counter medicine. Do not take ibuprofen if you are allergic to aspirin.
    • If you scratched or tore some skin, you may also need a tetanus shot or antibiotic (an-ti-bi-ah-tik) medicine. If you got a tetanus shot, your arm may get swollen, red, and warm to touch at the shot site. This is a normal reaction to the medicine in the shot.
    • If you are taking antibiotics (an-ti-bi-ah-tiks), take them until they are all gone even if you feel better.
    • If you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.


  • You have more pain or swelling from the injury.


  • Your arm becomes numb, pale, or cold.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Acromioclavicular Separation (Discharge Care)

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