AC Joint Sprain
AC Joint Sprain
(Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain)
An acromioclavicular (AC) joint injury is commonly referred to as “shoulder separation” and should not be confused with a shoulder dislocation.
Your acromioclavicular joint (or AC Joint) is the joint at the top of your shoulder between your clavicle (collarbone) and your scapula (shoulder blade). The AC joint is essential. It allows overhead and across your body shoulder movements and transmits forces from the arm to your body. Several ligaments help to stabilise this joint.
An acromioclavicular joint sprain is a ligament overstretching injury. The degree of AC joint ligament damage can vary from a mild strain of one or more of the surrounding ligaments to complete ligament tears and deformity.
What is the AC Joint?
The shoulder joint forms at the junction of three bones. The collarbone (clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the arm bone (humerus). The scapula forms the joint’s socket, and the humerus has a round head that articulates upon the glenoid fossa (socket). The end of the scapula is called the acromion. This part of the scapula and clavicle joint is called the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint).
When the acromioclavicular joint overstretches, it is called a shoulder separation and can form a “step” if displaced. Other names for this injury is acromioclavicular joint separation, AC separation or an AC joint sprain.
The ligaments include the acromioclavicular, coracoacromial and coracoclavicular (trapezoid and conoid) ligaments.
What Causes an AC Joint Injury?
Direct forces can injure your AC joint when a person collides with a solid object or surface, such as a fall from a bicycle or during a football tackle where the shoulder hits the ground.
Your acromioclavicular joint may also be injured indirectly when a person falls on an outstretched arm. The contact force transmitted up through the arm forces a separation of the acromion and clavicle. The ligaments are overstretched and damaged in the process.
AC Joint Injury Symptoms
Your physiotherapist will suspect an acromioclavicular ligament sprain when you report:
- Pain on the top of the shoulder aggravated by heavy lifting, overhead and across body movements.
- Swelling +/- bruising.
- Loss of shoulder movement.
- Sometimes a hard, visible lump may also be present on the top of the shoulder, indicating the displacement of the clavicle (collar bone).
AC joint injury is graded by severity from Grade I (minimal joint disruption) to Grade III (severe damage). If the injury is the more severe, Grade III, a bump caused by the separated AC joint may be seen or felt at the tip of the shoulder bones. The diagnosis of shoulder separation is often quite apparent from hearing your mechanism of injury and a simple physical examination.
X-rays ensure there is no fracture of these bones. Clavicle fractures from falls are prevalent.
If the diagnosis is unclear, X-rays while holding a weight in your hand may be helpful. With this X-ray, the force of the gravity will accentuate any AC joint instability and better show the effects of the separated shoulder.
For a specific diagnosis regarding your shoulder injury, please consult your shoulder physiotherapist or doctor.
AC Joint Injury Treatment
Most patients with acromioclavicular joint injury start to feel better within a few days or a week of the damage. However, full ligament healing will take at least six weeks. It is crucial to protect your AC joint ligaments from overstretching the immature scar tissue during this time. It can be helpful to use a sling, taping or a shoulder brace that de-loads your AC joint.
Your physiotherapist’s treatment will aim to:
- Reduce pain and inflammation.
- Normalise joint range of motion.
- Strengthen your shoulder.
- Improve your shoulder blade and shoulder alignment.
- Normalise your muscle lengths.
- Improve your upper limb proprioception.
- Improve your technique and function, e.g. lifting, overhead activities.
- Minimise your chance of re-injury as you return to sport or work.
In severe cases, some patients choose to undergo AC joint surgery to pin the AC joint or repair the damaged ligaments surrounding the AC joint.
Post-operative rehabilitation is one of the most important, yet too often neglected, aspects of surgery. The quickest and most successful outcomes result from the guidance and supervision of an experienced shoulder physiotherapist.
Your rehabilitation following shoulder surgery focuses on restoring full shoulder motion, strength, power and endurance. You will also require proprioception and individualised functional-based retraining towards your specific needs.
Risks of surgery include infection, persistent instability and pain, stiffness, and difficulty returning to your previous level of activity.
Return to Sports with an AC Joint Injury
When returning to your sport, you must undergo a graduated transition to avoid the risk of injury recurrence. This rehabilitation includes completing a full individually designed rehabilitation program aimed at improving strengthening, flexibility and proprioception in your upper limbs.
For more information, please ask the advice of your physiotherapist.
Common Shoulder Pain & Injury Conditions
- Rotator Cuff Syndrome
- Shoulder Tendinopathy
- Rotator Cuff Calcific Tendinopathy
- Rotator Cuff Tear
- Bicep Tendinopathy
- Shoulder Impingement
- Swimmer's Shoulder
- Subacromial Decompression
- Shoulder Arthroscopy
- Rotator Cuff Repair
- SLAP Repair
- Biceps Tenodesis
- Biceps Tenotomy
- Total Shoulder Replacement
Researchers have discovered that managing your shoulder injury with physiotherapy is usually successful. Typically, you have two options: non-operative or a surgical approach. Your condition will dictate which option is best for you at this time. Non-operative care is conservative rehabilitation.
If shoulder surgery is required, then your physiotherapist may undertake:
Pre-operative rehabilitation - to either trial a non-operative/conservative treatment approach or to condition and prepare your shoulder and body for a surgical procedure.
Post-operative physiotherapy - to safely and methodically regain your normal range of movement, strength, speed and function.
PhysioWorks physiotherapists have a special interest and an excellent working relationship with leading shoulder surgeons. Our physiotherapy team provide you with both conservative and post-operative shoulder rehabilitation options. We aim for you attaining the best possible outcome for your shoulder injury.
For specific information regarding your shoulder, please consult your trusted shoulder physiotherapist.
What is the PhysioWorks Difference?
You'll be impressed with the experienced physiotherapists, massage therapists, allied health team and reception staff who represent PhysioWorks.
To ensure that we remain highly qualified, PhysioWorks is committed to participating in continuing education to provide optimal care.
If you've been searching for health practitioners with a serious interest in your rehabilitation or injury prevention program, our staff have either participated or are still participating in competitive sports at a representative level.
We also currently provide physiotherapy and massage services for numerous sports clubs. Our experience helps us understand what you need to do to safely and quickly return to your sporting field, home duties, or employment.
How You'll Benefit from the PhysioWorks Difference?
At PhysioWorks physiotherapy and massage clinics, we strive to offer our clients quick, effective and long-lasting results by providing high-quality treatment.
We aim to get you better quicker in a friendly and caring environment conducive to successful healing.
With many years of clinical experience, our friendly service and quality treatment is a benchmark not only in Brisbane but Australia-wide.
What are Some of the BIG Differences?
Our therapists pride themselves on keeping up to date with the latest research and treatment skills to ensure that they provide you with the most advantageous treatment methods. They are continually updating their knowledge via seminars, conferences, workshops, scientific journals etc.
Not only will you receive a detailed consultation, but we offer long-term solutions, not just quick fixes that, in reality, only last for a short time.
We attempt to treat the cause, not just the symptoms.
PhysioWorks clinics are modern thinking. Not only in their appearance but in the equipment we use and in our therapists' knowledge.
Our staff care about you! We are always willing to go that 'extra mile' to guarantee that we cater to our client's unique needs.
All in all, we feel that your chances of the correct diagnosis, the most effective treatment and the best outcomes are all the better at PhysioWorks.
What Causes Arm Pain?
Arm pain and injuries are widespread. Arm pain can occur as a result of either sudden, traumatic or repetitive overuse. The causes can be related to sports injuries, work injuries or simply everyday arm use.
Causes of Arm Pain by Region
Causes of Arm Pain by Structure
Neck-related Arm Pain
Shoulder-related Arm Pain
- AC Joint Injury
- Biceps Tendinopathy
- Broken Shoulder - Fractured Humerus
- Bursitis Shoulder
- Dislocated Shoulder
- Frozen Shoulder
- Rotator Cuff Calcific Tendinopathy
- Rotator Cuff Syndrome
- Rotator Cuff Tear
- Shoulder Arthritis
- Shoulder Impingement
- Shoulder Tendonitis
- Swimmer's Shoulder
Elbow-related Arm Pain
Wrist-related Arm Pain
Hand-related Arm Pain
Muscle-related Arm Pain
- DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
- Muscle Strain (Muscle Pain)
- RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury
- Overuse Injuries
Other Sources of Arm Pain
Common Causes of Arm Pain
- Your rotator cuff or frozen shoulder most commonly causes shoulder pain.
- Elbow pain is most commonly caused by tennis elbow or golfers elbow.
- Wrist & hand pain can be related to carpal tunnel, wrist arthritis or even a thumb tendon condition known as de Quervain's tenosynovitis.
Referred Arm Pain
As mentioned earlier, arm pain can be referred to from another source. Cervical radiculopathy is a common source of referred arm pain. Cervical radiculopathy will not respond to treatment where you feel the arm pain. However, it will respond positively to treatment at the source of the injury (e.g. your neck joints).
Professional assessment from a health practitioner skilled in diagnosing both spinal-origin and local-origin (muscle and joint) injuries (e.g. your physiotherapist) is recommended to ensure an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment directed at the arm pain source.
Arm Pain has Diverse Causes.
The causes of your arm pain can be extensive and varied. Due to this diversity, your arm pain should be assessed by a suitably qualified health practitioner to attain an accurate diagnosis, treatment plan and implementation specific to your arm pain.
What Arm Pain is Associated with a Heart Attack?
Left-arm pain can be an early sign of a life-threatening cardiac issue. Based on this, a professional medical assessment that involves an accurate history, symptom analysis, physical examination and diagnostic tests to exclude a potential heart attack is important to exclude this potentially life-threatening source of arm pain.
For more information, please consult with your health practitioner, call an ambulance on 000, or visit a hospital emergency department to put your mind at ease.
Good News. Most Arm Pain is NOT Life-Threatening.
Luckily, life-threatening arm pain is far less likely than a local musculoskeletal injury. Arm pain caused by a localised arm muscle, tendon or joint injury should be assessed and confirmed by your health practitioner before commencing treatment.
Arm Pain Prognosis
The good news is that arm pain, and injury will normally respond very favourably to medical or physiotherapy intervention when early professional assessment and treatment is sought. Please do not delay in consulting your healthcare practitioner if you experience arm pain.
Common Arm Pain Treatments
With accurate assessment and early treatment, most arm injuries respond extremely quickly to physiotherapy or medical care, allowing you to resume pain-free and normal activities of daily living quickly.
Please ask your physiotherapist for their professional treatment advice.
Common Youth Arm Injuries
Children's Arm InjuriesChildren's and Adolescent injuries differ from adult injuries, mainly because the bones are still growing. The growth plates (physis) are cartilaginous (healthy connective tissue) areas of the bones from which the bones elongate or enlarge. Repetitive stress or sudden large forces can cause injury to these areas.
Throwers ElbowRepetitive overhand throwing can injure a child' elbow. Throwing injuries in the elbow most commonly occur in baseball pitchers, but cricket also has an incidence level. Any child who participates in repetitive overhand throwing can suffer throwers elbow. The overhand throw creates stresses on the growth areas. If repeatedly overloaded, overhand throwing of the immature elbow may result in excessive strain upon the elbow structures, such as ligaments, cartilage, and growth plates. Medial Apophysitis ("Little Leaguer's Elbow") Medial apophysitis causes pain at the medial epicondyle on the inside of the elbow. Medial apophysitis is a common elbow problem sustained by active children. The bone prominence, called the medial epicondyle, is at the end of the humerus bone and contains a growth plate called the medial apophysis. Muscles that control wrist motion attach to the medial epicondyle, and excessive overhand throwing can irritate and inflame the growth plate. Young tennis players can also suffer this injury. Osteochondritis Dissecans Osteochondritis dissecans is a common source of lateral elbow pain. The immature bones of the elbow joint can compress from excessive overhand throwing. Small fragments of bone and cartilage may dislodge and potentially float within the joint. You may require surgery to remove the loose bodies. The key to pain relief is active resting from the aggravating sport. If left untreated, throwing injuries in the elbow can become severe conditions. Depending upon the severity of a child's injury, they may require surgery. If a child's pain continues after a few days of complete rest, please seek the advice of your physiotherapist or doctor. More info: Juvenile Osteochondritis Dissecans
Stress Reaction of Growth Plates (Physis)Repetitive stress on a child's growth plate (physis) in the arms or legs, if ignored, can impair growth. It can also be painful. Overuse stress reaction may lead to irregularity or widening of the growth plate. If you continue repetitive stress, the growth plate may become permanently damaged and could stop growing prematurely. This premature cessation could lead to a bone deformity. Sports activities that may cause a stress reaction in growth plates include gymnastics and overhand throwing. Gymnasts perform repetitive wrist activities that can lead to a stress reaction of the growth plate in the distal radius bone. Young baseball pitchers apply forces across the upper arm bone in their shoulders during the overhand throw. They can damage their upper humerus (shoulder bone) growth plate. An abnormal growth plate in an X-ray of a child who participates in a high-risk sport requires an Orthopaedic assessment. They may require surgical treatment. Until assessed, they should stop the aggravating activity for at least 2 to 3 months unless your surgeon suggests otherwise. For specific advice, please seek the professional opinion of your physiotherapist or doctor.
Common Youth & Teenager Sports InjuriesCommon Youth Neck & Back Injuries Common Youth Leg Injuries Common Youth Arm Injuries
Article by P.XuAs we slowly start getting into the cooler seasons, many people will begin to notice sore joints waking up in the morning, or that movement has become stiff, or even headaches increasing in frequency or severity. Why is this? It turns out that cold weather can have a significant impact on your body’s tissues. Notably, the connective tissue gives our muscles and joints the ability to move as they do, called elastin. As the name suggests, elastin is one of the critical components that provide our joints and muscles with the ability to bend, stretch, and move as they need to get you through the day.
Sports Injury Management
You probably already know that a sports injury can affect not only your performance but also your lifestyle. The latest research continues to change sports injury management considerably. Our challenge is to keep up to date with the latest research and put them to work for you.
How we treated you last year could vary significantly to how we treat you this year. The good news is that you can benefit considerably from our knowledge.
What Should You Do When You Suffer a Sports Injury?
Rest from painful exercise or a movement is essential in the early injury stage. "No pain. No gain." does not apply in most cases. The rule of thumb is - don't do anything that reproduces your pain for the initial two or three days. After that, you need to get it moving, or other problems will develop.
Ice or Heat?
We usually recommend avoiding heat (and heat rubs) in the first 48 hours of injury. The heat encourages bleeding, which could be detrimental if used too early. In traumatic injuries, such as ligament sprains, muscle tears or bruising, ice should help reduce your pain and swelling.
Once the "heat" has come out of your injury, you can use heat packs. We recommend 20-minute applications a few times a day to increase the blood flow and hasten your healing rate. The heat will also help your muscles relax and ease your pain. If you're not sure what to do, please call us to discuss your situation specifically.
Should You Use a Compressive Bandage?
Yes. A compressive bandage will help to control swelling and bleeding in the first few days. In most cases, the compressive dressing will also help support the injury as you lay down the new scar tissue. This early healing should help to reduce your pain. Some injuries will benefit from more rigid support such as a brace or strapping tape. Please ask us if you are uncertain about what to do next.
Gravity will encourage swelling to settle at the lowest point. Elevation of an injury in the first few days is beneficial, especially for ankle or hand injuries. Think where your damage is and where your heart is. Try to rest your injury above your heart.
What Medication Should You Use?
Your Doctor or Pharmacist may recommend pain killers or an anti-inflammatory drug. It is best to seek their professional advice as certain medications can interfere with other health conditions, especially asthmatics.
When Should You Commence Physio?
In most cases, "the early bird gets the worm". Researchers have found that the intervention of physiotherapy treatment within a few days has many benefits. These include:
- Relieving your pain quicker via joint mobility techniques, massage and electrotherapy
- Improving your scar tissue using techniques to guide the direction it forms
- Getting you back to sport or work quicker through faster healing rates
- Loosening or strengthening of your injured region with individually prescribed exercises
- Improving your performance when you return to sport - we'll detect and help you correct any biomechanical faults that may affect your technique or predispose you to injury.
What If You Do Nothing?
Research tells us that injuries left untreated take longer to heal and have lingering pain. They are also more likely to recur and leave you with either joint stiffness or muscle weakness. It's important to remember that symptoms lasting longer than three months become habitual and are much harder to solve. The sooner you get on top of your symptoms, the better your outcome.
What About Arthritis?
Previously injured joints can prematurely become arthritic through neglect. Generally, there are four main reasons why you develop arthritis:
- An inappropriately treated previous injury (e.g. old joint or ligament sprains)
- Poor joint positioning (biomechanical faults)
- Stiff joints (lack of movement diminishes joint nutrition)
- Loose joints (excessive sloppiness causes joint damage through poor control)
What About Your Return to Sport?
Your physiotherapist will guide you safely back to the level of sport at which you wish to participate. If you need guidance, ask us.
What If You Need Surgery or X-rays?
Not only will your physio diagnose your sports injury and give you the "peace of mind" associated, but they'll also refer you elsewhere if that's what's best for you. Think about it. You could be suffering needlessly from a sports injury. Please use our advice to guide you out of pain quicker. And for a lot longer.
If you have any questions regarding your sports injury (or any other condition), please contact your physiotherapist to discuss. You'll find our friendly staff happy to point you in the right direction.
Acute Sports Injury Clinic
How to Best Care for Your Sports Injury?
There is never an excellent time for an injury. But we do know that most sports injuries occur over the weekend! That's why at PhysioWorks, we have established an Acute Sports Injury Clinic at a selection of our clinics on a Monday and Tuesday.
The acute sports injury consultation fee is significantly lower than a routine assessment and treatment consultation. In most cases, your private health will cover the full cost of your full acute injury physio assessment fee.
Why Use an Acute Sports Injury Clinic?
Your Acute Sports Injury Assessment Consultation allows us to provide you with:
- A quick and accurate diagnosis. One of our Sports Physiotherapist's or an experienced sports injury-focused Physiotherapist will confidently guide your new injury management.
- Early acute sports injury care, professional advice and education. What to do this week?
- Fast referral for X-rays, ultrasound or MRI scans to confirm your diagnosis.
- Prompt referral to Sports Physicians, GPs or Surgeons with whom we work if required.
- Immediate supply of walking boots, braces and rental crutches if needed.
- Low-cost professional service.
For more friendly advice or guidance, please call your nearest clinic to discuss your specific needs.
Who is a Sports Physiotherapist?
Sports Physiotherapy is the specialised branch of physiotherapy which deals with injuries and issues related to spokespeople. Practitioners with additional formal training within Australia are Sports & Exercise Physiotherapists.
What is Sports Physiotherapy?
Sports injuries do differ from common everyday injuries. Athletes usually require high-level performance and demand placed upon their body, which stresses their muscles, joints and bones to the limit. Sports physiotherapists help athletes recover from sporting injuries, and provide education and resources to prevent problems.
Each sports physiotherapist usually has sport-specific knowledge that addresses acute, chronic and overuse injuries. Their services are generally available to sportsmen and women of all ages engaged in sports at any level of competition.
Members of Sports Physiotherapy Australia (SPA) have experience and knowledge of the latest evidence-based practice, skilled assessment and diagnosis of sports injuries, and use effective 'hands-on' management techniques and exercise protocols to assist recovery and prevent future damage. SPA members have access to the most recent advances in sports physiotherapy. You'll be pleased to know that most of PhysioWorks physiotherapists and massage therapists have a particular interest in sports injury management.
What is Physiotherapy Treatment?
Physiotherapists help people affected by illness, injury or disability through exercise, manual joint therapy, soft tissue techniques education and advice. Physiotherapists maintain physical health, allow patients to manage pain and prevent disease for people of all ages. Physiotherapists help encourage pain-relief, injury recovery, enabling people to stay playing a sport, working or performing daily living activities while assisting them to remain functionally independent.
There is a multitude of different physiotherapy treatment approaches.
Acute & Sub-Acute Injury Management
Hands-On Physiotherapy Techniques
Your physiotherapist's training includes hands-on physiotherapy techniques such as:
- Joint Mobilisation (gentle joint gliding techniques)
- Joint Manipulation
- Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
- Minimal Energy Techniques (METs)
- Soft Tissue Techniques
Your physiotherapist has skilled training. Physiotherapy techniques have expanded over the past few decades. They have researched, upskilled and educated themselves in a spectrum of allied health skills. These skills include techniques shared with other healthcare practitioners. Professions include exercise physiologists, remedial massage therapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, kinesiologists, chiropractors and occupational therapists, to name a few.
Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled professional who utilises strapping and taping techniques to prevent and assist injuries or pain relief and function.
Alternatively, your physiotherapist may recommend a supportive brace.
Acupuncture and Dry Needling
Many physiotherapists have acquired additional training in acupuncture and dry needling to assist pain relief and muscle function.
Physiotherapists have been trained in the use of exercise therapy to strengthen your muscles and improve your function. Physiotherapy exercises use evidence-based protocols where possible as an effective way that you can solve or prevent pain and injury. Your physiotherapist is highly-skilled in the prescription of the "best exercises" for you and the most appropriate "exercise dose" for you, depending on your rehabilitation status. Your physiotherapist will incorporate essential components of pilates, yoga and exercise physiology to provide you with the best result. They may even use Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy so that you can watch your muscles contract on a screen as you correctly retrain them.
- Muscle Stretching
- Core Exercises
- Strengthening Exercises
- Balance Exercises
- Proprioception Exercises
- Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy
- Swiss Ball Exercises
Biomechanical assessment, observation and diagnostic skills are paramount to the best treatment. Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled health professional. They possess superb diagnostic skills to detect and ultimately avoid musculoskeletal and sports injuries. Poor technique or posture is one of the most common sources of a repeat injury.
Aquatic water exercises are an effective method to provide low bodyweight exercises.
Sports physio requires an extra level of knowledge and physiotherapy to assist injury recovery, prevent injury and improve performance. For the best advice, consult a Sports Physiotherapist.
Women's Health Physiotherapy is a particular interest group of therapies.
Not only can your physiotherapist assist you in sport, but they can also help you at work. Ergonomics looks at the best postures and workstation set up for your body at work or home. Whether it be lifting technique improvement, education programs or workstation setups, your physiotherapist can help you.
Plus Much More
Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled body mechanic. A physiotherapist has particular interests in certain injuries or specific conditions. For advice regarding your problem, please contact your PhysioWorks team.