The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is located in the shoulder area. Injuries that involve the AC joint are sometimes referred to as shoulder separation.
What is an AC Joint Injury?
Using ligaments, the AC joint connects the shoulder cap with the collarbone. This area is particularly prone to injury because of its location, even though the area itself is very strong. Several levels of injuries could occur in this area.
AC joint injuries are fairly common after bicycle accidents, sporting accidents, and car accidents. An AC joint injury will usually follow a fall where you land directly on your shoulder. If this injury occurs, you will notice swelling and a bump or bulge above the shoulder.
Bracing yourself for impact in a car or truck accident by stretching your arms and trying to stabilize yourself on the dashboard can cause shoulder injuries. An impact to the shoulder from either inside or outside the car can have a similar effect. The seatbelt can also contribute to shoulder injuries during an accident.
Whiplash Injuries to the Shoulder
Although whiplash injuries are commonly associated with the neck, whiplash can also affect the shoulder and collarbone area. Generally, it involves the victim’s interaction with the seatbelt at the time of the crash.
The clavicle and the body are restrained by the seatbelt, but the head, neck, and other shoulder may still try to move forward. The restrained parts of the body then catch up with the unrestrained parts. This results in a rapid pulling and snapping motion that will stretch the ligaments and then contract them suddenly. Usually, if a victim has a whiplash-related shoulder injury, they will also have problems with their neck as well.
Shoulder Injury Symptoms
If you suspect that your shoulder has been injured following an accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. A shoulder injury could have any combination of the following symptoms:
- Swelling and redness
- Tingling or tenderness to the touch
- Changes in skin temperature
- Pain (either while resting or moving)
- Inhibited mobility (especially when trying to lift objects or raise your arms)
Failing to seek medical treatment could result in long-term problems like chronic pain and decreased movement. Take care of yourself and speak with an experienced medical professional about your symptoms.
Treatment for AC Joint Injuries
If the AC joint injury is not severe, then you will usually not require shoulder surgery. Instead, a doctor will recommend pain management techniques such as ice packs, medication, and immobilizing the arm with a sling. Supports that are more complicated are also sometimes necessary to inhibit motion.
For non-serious injuries, most patients will return to full functioning, but they may have a deformity in the shoulder area. Other patients may continue to have pain off and on for the rest of their lives.
Some shoulder injuries are serious enough to require surgery. If the deformity is severe or if there is persistent pain, then surgery may be the best option. Surgeries actually trim back part of the collarbone so that it does not rub against the other bones. Restructuring the ligaments may also be another option.
Regardless of whether your injury requires surgery, you will likely need to utilize physical therapy to regain the full use of your shoulder area. It may take some time to regain strength in your shoulder and the pain involved could be permanent in some situations.
Other Shoulder Injuries
Other shoulder injuries that are common following a car accident are a glenoid labrum tears and rotator cuff tears. The rotator cuff attaches the upper arm bone (the humerus) to the shoulder blade. The glenoid labrum attaches to the shoulder blade, humerus, and collarbone.
If either of these ligaments tear, it will likely be accompanied by a significant amount of pain. Lifting will make the pain worse, and you may not be able to lie on that side of your body. It may also seem like the limb is weak, and the shoulder area may grind or pop. Your range of motion will likely be diminished as well.
Rest may be the only real treatment for a partial tear. A complete tear may require surgery. Even after surgery, however, some patients will still have inhibited movement or chronic pain.
There are other types of shoulder injuries as well. Some examples include:
- Nerve injuries
- Dislocation or subluxation of the bones
- Shoulder strain (pulled muscles)
Finding Legal Help for AC Joint Injuries
Shoulder injuries, particularly AC joint injuries, are painful and the healing process can take a significant amount of time. For many patients, the pain never goes away entirely. This chronic pain can have a significant impact on your everyday life. You may no longer be able to lift objects the way that you once could, and you may have decreased mobility generally.
This change can affect your job, your home life, and even how you interact with other family members. For example, you may not be able to pick up your children or grandchildren after a severe shoulder injury. This type of incapacity is not only physically troublesome, it can also cause emotional damage.
At The Dixon Injury Firm, we understand that a serious shoulder injury, even after a relatively minor accident, can change your life. Let our compassionate and experienced team help you get the compensation that you deserve for your injury. Call 314-409-7060 for a free case evaluation.