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Acromioclavicular Separation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is an acromioclavicular separation?

An acromioclavicular separation (AS), or shoulder separation, is when your shoulder and collarbone move or come apart. The bones move or come apart because the ligaments that hold the bones in place are stretched or torn.

What are the signs and symptoms of an AS?

  • Pain
  • Abnormally shaped shoulder
  • Lump on top of the shoulder

How is an AS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can usually diagnose an AS because of the abnormal shape of your shoulder. You may also need x-rays to show the separation.

How is an AS treated?

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • A Tetanus (Td) vaccine may be needed if you have an open wound. This vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Apply ice. Apply ice on your injury for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for the first 1 to 2 days. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Apply heat. Apply heat on your injury for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours after the first 1 to 2 days. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Wear your support device. You may need to wear a strap, elastic bandage, or sling. These devices keep your shoulder in the correct position so it can heal.
    • Wear the strap or sling constantly for 6 to 8 weeks, even when you sleep. You may remove the strap or sling when you bathe. Do not move your shoulder or arm when the strap or sling is off. Do not lift your arm.
    • The strap or sling must be tightened by another person every day. Tighten it enough to keep your shoulders back in the correct posture. Tell the person to allow enough room to fit an index finger between your body and the strap. Put a folded wash cloth in your armpit to prevent pressure on the nerves by the strap. Loosen the strap if you feel numbness or tingling in your arm or hand.
  • Rest your shoulder as much as possible to decrease swelling and help it heal.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have worse pain, even after you take medicine.
  • You have an open wound that is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • Your arm or hand becomes numb or tingles.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You lose feeling in your arm or hand.
  • You cannot move your arm or hand.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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