Understanding AC Joint Arthritis Pain: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Do you experience any pain when tying your seat belt? Are you unable to lift your arm or move it from side-to-side? Acromioclavicular arthritis, also known as AC joint arthritisis a common form of arthritis in the shoulder.

The AC joint is the part of the body where the collarbone and the shoulder blade meet. It is the joint which provides the arm the ability to move in multiple directions. The rotatory power of the shoulder blades is a result of a properly-functioning AC joint.

Just as with other parts of the shoulder, the AC joint too can experience wear and tear. Over time, with age and physical activity, the AC joint can become rusty and weak, resulting in intense pain in the shoulder.

Signs and Symptoms of AC Joint Arthritis

Medical practitioners look for certain signs and symptoms which indicate whether or not a patient has arthritis in the AC joint or not. Some of these signs are:

  • Extreme pain near the shoulder blade
  • Tenderness in the shoulder joints
  • Difficulty in moving the arm
  • Intense pain during certain arm and shoulder movements
  • Tendinitis
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is best to visit the doctor immediately!

Understanding How AC Joint Arthritis Works

The AC joint is joined to the clavicle (collarbone) and the scapula (shoulder blade) by cartilage. Over time, these cartilages may get frayed, damaged or even break. When this happens, there is nothing holding the collarbone and shoulder blade in place. When these bones move, there is excessive friction, resulting in damage to the bones.

To prevent the shoulder from deteriorating, the body forms small bony growths called osteophytes or bone spurs in place of the missing cartilage. This leads to a decrease in the space between the clavicle and the scapula and leads to even more friction during contact. As time progresses, the bones become weak and damaged and arthritis sets in.

Treatment Procedure

Unfortunately, AC joint arthritis is a degenerative disease, meaning its effects cannot be reversed. However, with timely intervention, patients can slow down the amount of wear and tear that their shoulder experiences, leading to an improvement in the quality of life.

The Treatments for AC Joint Arthritis Include:

  • Exercise
    Activity modification is highly recommended to patients. Activities that involve lifting too much weight and activities that require flexibility are to be avoided. Daily activities need to be altered to avoid experiencing pain.
  • Medication
    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, and topical medication may be prescribed by the doctor based on case-specific needs. The medical professional may also recommend supplements and injections as treatment.
  • Compression
    Hot and cold compress can be used to temporarily reduce the pain and swelling in the shoulder.
  • Physical therapy
    Gentle stretching and strengthening can help patients regain movement in the shoulders.
  • Surgery
    AC joint arthroscopy, AC joint osteotomy or resection of the distal clavicle may be recommended by doctors when ac joint arthritis cases are extreme. It’s important to follow the doctor’s treatment orders for a quick recovery.

If you’re in the area, call us today and schedule an appointment with the best orthopedic surgeons in Seattle!

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