Pain Caused by Trauma or Arthritis in the AC Joint

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At the end of your collarbone (clavicle) is your AC (acromioclavicular) joint. The AC joint connects the acromion of your shoulder blade (scapula). Pain in this shoulder area is usually caused by trauma such as falling and landing on your AC joint’s tip or on an arm that is outstretched. The acromioclavicular (or AC) joint joins the end of the collarbone (clavicle) connecting it to the acromion of the shoulder blade (scapula).

According to ShoulderMD, the cause of pain in this area is usually trauma. If you should fall on your arm when it is outstretched or fall directly on your AC joint’s tip, those actions will result in pain. Arthritis can be the cause of pain in the shoulder area as well. Arthritis causes the joint to become inflamed and stiff. Both pain and the joint’s limited mobility become worse over time.


Pain in your shoulder indicates that your AC joint most likely is arthritic if it hasn’t been injured in a fall. The AC joint is tender when you touch it. You can feel pain at the tip of your shoulder. When you lift your arm up, you feel lots of pain. Actions such as washing your hair, reaching overhead or putting shirts on and off are very difficult due to the pain they cause. It is impossible for you to reach across your body to your opposite shoulder due to the pain this action causes. If you should sleep on the arthritic shoulder, enough pain will be produced to wake you.

AC Joint Pain Treatment

  • Ice Therapy:Ice therapy can help relieve your pain if the AC joint pain is a result of trauma or caused by arthritis. The best treatment for this injury or arthritis is resting the joint and ice. Joint inflammation can also be helped with anti-inflammatory medication that can be bought over the counter. You should apply ice to your shoulder three times a day for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • A Sling:If you feel discomfort due to the weight of your arm hanging, a sling can help to reduce your pain and decrease the stress on your joint.
  • Steroid Injection:If medication doesn’t relieve your pain, your AC joint pain can be helped with a steroid injection. This injection is usually the first attempt at relief if the medication, ice therapy, and resting the joint wasn’t successful.
  • Physical Therapy Exercise:In order to reduce the inflammation of your AC joint, restore its strength, and restore your range of motion, a program of physical therapy is recommended. You can find exercises for your AC joint pain online. In cases where arthritis is the cause of your pain, your AC joint mobility can be improved greatly by restoring your normal range of motion which is necessary to reduce your pain.
  • Iontophoresis Modality:If your pain is caused by arthritis, a modality known as iontophoresis can be used. Electrodes are used to deliver anti-inflammatory medication and reduce the local joint inflammation.

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