The AC joint (acromioclavicular joint) is at the top of the shoulder between the collarbone and shoulder blade.This is the joint that allows your arm to move over your head and across your body. It also supports your ability to pull, push and lift. The AC joint is supported by a number of ligaments that maintain its stability and mobility, making AC joint pain relief necessary if you’re experiencing any!
What is an AC Joint Injury?
An AC joint injury is also known as ‘shoulder separation’ (not to be confused with dislocation). When injured, the ligaments supporting the joint may become strained or overstretched. The degree of damage can range from mild ligament strain to a full-blown ligament tear. In this case, deformity of the ligament may occur.
AC joint injuries can result in displacement or a ‘step’ between the joint and the ligaments. Causes of such an injury may include direct force – such as collision with a solid force or surface, or falling from a bicycle. Footballers are also prone to injuries during tackles in which they hit the ground.
AC Joint Injury Symptoms
The most common symptom of an AC joint injury is pain. The top of the shoulder may be especially painful, and is aggravated by lifting heavy objects. Pain in moving the arm over the head or across the body is also typical. Swelling and bruising may accompany the injury, and it will be difficult to move the shoulder.
AC Joint Pain Relief
When it comes to AC joint pain relief, most patients will be given prescription medication by their health professional. Prescription drugs are designed to reduce pain and inflammation caused by the injury, which speeds the healing process. However, it’s not always advisable to take pain-relieving drugs long term as they can have negative effects on the gut and liver.
Ice is an effective and easy means of AC joint pain relief, as it quickly reduces pain and swelling in the damaged tissues. Health professionals advise applying an ice pack or bag of frozen peas every 15 minutes following an acute injury, or when pain arises.
One of the most important steps in the acute treatment period is supporting the joint. This will involve wearing the arm in a sling, taping the shoulder or using a shoulder brace. These measures help to take the weight off the joint and reduce the pain. The shoulder must be in the correct position in order to allow proper healing: this will be seen to by a trained professional.
In the long term, AC joint pain relief should include supplementation with turmeric and purified fish oil. Both of these are well-supported by clinical research for their ability to reduce pain and inflammation, and to encourage normal healing in the affected area. Turmeric is a particularly powerful natural-anti-inflammatory that can be taken long-term. Fish oil aids cell renewal and cartilage repair, as well as reducing inflammatory markers in the blood caused by injury.
As with any injury, advice from your an orthopedic surgeon or specialist must be adhered to, even if surgery is the next step to recovery.