Separated Shoulder

What is a Separated Shoulder?

A separated shoulder is a type of shoulder injury. It is specifically an injury to the ligaments in and around the shoulder joint and is not considered to be an injury directly to the shoulder joint. The injury occurs at the point where the collarbone and shoulder blade are connected to one another. It differs from a shoulder dislocation. When a person has a separated shoulder, shoulder blade and collarbone no longer meet in the way that they should.

This can occur due to numerous injuries and issues. The ligaments that connect these two bones may simply be stretched out. Sometimes those ligaments can also rupture or break, which is a much more complex issue. Separated shoulders occur in a variety of scenarios. Most often they occur due to falls, sports injuries, or car or other motor vehicle accidents.

There are different levels of severity for a separated shoulder. Mild forms of this injury are the aforementioned stretched ligaments. Moderate and severe separated shoulders result from tears to the AC ligament or both the AC (acromioclavicular) and CC (coracoclavicular) ligament in the shoulder.

What are the Symptoms of a Separated Shoulder?

One of the most common symptoms of a separate shoulder is pain in the shoulder area. This pain often occurs suddenly after a fall or other incident and can feel like a burning sensation and is often intense right when the injury occurs. Weakness in the arm or shoulder can also occur and movement in the shoulder may be limited. Some people also notice swelling or bruising in the shoulder area and sometimes a bump or lump forms as well. In severe cases of a separated shoulder, a person may experience numbness down the arm or in the fingers or the fingers may become cold. These symptoms are rare but are also indicative that emergency medical care is necessary to preserve the function of the arm and hand.

Separated Shoulder Causes

The injury occurs when a blow hits you to the shoulder or after a fall. When you fall directly on the shoulder, the arm is outstretched, thus causing an injury. This disorder is most common in people who play sports such as football and hockey.

When the damage is on the acromioclavicular ligament, the injury is not a big deal, but if it extends to the coracoclavicular ligament then the whole shoulder unit is involved, and the dislocation is severe. Other causes of the damage are from accidents, weak shoulder muscles, shallow joint sockets, and loose ligaments. The classification of the shoulder separation is determined by how severe the ligaments are damaged. The separated shoulder injuries are in three grades. The categories range from mild dislocation to complete separation.

The first grade is a simple displacement of the joint. The ligament at this point is partially damaged. Then there is the second grade where the acromioclavicular destruction occurs while the coracoclavicular is intact. Finally, there’s the third stage where the separation is complete. The capsule around the joint is damaged. Apparently, without the support of the ligament, all the weight of the shoulder is supported by the arm then pushing up the clavicle. Pushing the clavicle intensifies the damage on the shoulder.

How is a Separated Shoulder Treated?

Mild shoulder separations often heal without treatment aside from rest, ice/heat treatments, and over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Using a shoulder sling to immobilize the shoulder joint and allow the ligaments to heal is also an option for mild to moderate shoulder separations. Physical therapy exercises to re-strengthen the shoulder and to keep the joint flexible can also help. In more severe shoulder separations, surgery may be necessary. Surgery may involve reshaping the collarbone or shoulder blade to avoid rubbing that may cause strain to the ligaments or it could require reshaping the ligaments themselves.

Separated Shoulder Prevention

Preventing a shoulder dislocation is possible. It is vital to ensure that you wear proper preventive equipment any time you are participating in sports. Also, ensure that the shoulder muscles are in good condition and healthy. Be careful whenever you are walking or playing to prevent falling.

Apart from that ensure that you consult a doctor when you engage in activities that cause shoulder pain. Avoid ignoring mild pain coming from the shoulder since the situation may get worse. The other important thing is doing a rehabilitating exercise when you have a pre-existing shoulder injury. The exercises are vital because they help the shoulder in regaining the lost energy.