Acromioclavicular separation is one of the more common injuries of the shoulder. AC separation is almost always due to a traumatic incident. It occurs on a more common basis in contact sports like football and hockey, but can also occur in other sports when accidents happen. Usually when one has an AC joint separation they will have sharp shoulder pain after either falling directly onto there shoulder or after trying to catch themselves while falling by using an outstretched hand. Ac separations are technically sprains, and just like most other sprains they have three grades. The first AC joint sprain grade involves a minor tear of the acromioclavicular ligament. There is no associated instability in the shoulder with a grade 1 sprain, the main symptom is pain. A grade 2 AC joint sprain is slightly different than other grade 2 sprains. In a grade 2 AC joint sprain there is either a mostly torn or complete rupture of the AC ligament. This will present with instability and sharp pain. There is likely to also be a small bump around the ac joint. This small bump may be fairly large if the area is still inflamed. A grade 3 AC joint sprain will have a complete rupture of both the AC ligament and the coracoclavicular ligament. This condition will present as instability, sharp pain, and a noticeable deformity over the AC joint. Tauberg Chiropractic & Rehabilitation wants to help you!


A patients history is the first marker of someone having an ac joint separation. The patient will almost always have a history of trauma directly to the shoulder or to an outstretched hand. The next step to making a diagnoses will involve palpation of the area. The area directly over the ac joint will be painful to the touch. There is also likely to be palpable or visible swelling. If a grade 1 sprain is present there will likely not have a visible deformity over the joint. If the patient at Tauberg Chiropractic & Rehabilitation in Fox Chapel presents with the above findings a diagnosis of a grade 1 sprain can be made. If there is a visible deformity xrays both weighted and unweighted will be needed. From the xrays it can be determined which grade of sprain is present by looking at the amount of space between the ac joint.


AC joint separations can be treated using conservative care. Using rehabilitation and conservative therapies an ac joint sprain can be nursed back to full health. This is even true of a grade 3 tear. A grade 3 tear, and possibly a grade 2 tear, will however leave a visible deformity over the ac joint. It is generally recommended that someone with a grade 3 tear receive surgery. While conservative care can be equally affective to surgery for all three grades of tears, a grade 3 tear will be more difficult to treat using rehab alone, and may be more likely to have issues down the road if surgery is not performed. If you think you have an AC joint separation call us today at Tauberg Chiropractic & Rehabilitation in Fox Chapel to see if we can help you.


  • Souza, T. A. (2016). Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.