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Treating a Separated Shoulder

August 21, 2022

a person holding his shoulder

The shoulder is one of the most flexible joints in the body. The muscles and ligaments in the shoulder support a wide range of motions, including lifting, throwing, and brushing your teeth or hair. If the shoulder is injured, pain and limited motility can impact a person's ability to perform many basic daily functions.

One common type of shoulder injury is shoulder separation. The doctors at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin offer various treatments for a separated shoulder, including shoulder surgery to repair damage. We customize treatment based on each of our Austin, TX, patient's unique needs. The goal of shoulder separation treatment is to alleviate pain and restore movement so that patients can resume a comfortable and active lifestyle.

What Is Shoulder Separation?

Shoulder separation is an injury that affects the ligaments surrounding the AC joint, which is where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. A severe injury can cause parts of the shoulder blade to separate from the collarbone. As the shoulder blade and collarbone separate, the weight of the arm can cause the shoulder blade to drop. Depending on the extent of injuries and damages, shoulder separation can result in a number of symptoms, including:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Tenderness near the AC joint
  • Shoulder deformity
  • Limited range of motion (i.e. difficulty lifting the arms all the way)

Causes of Shoulder Separation

Various types of accidents and injuries can result in a separated shoulder. Most often, these injuries occur when someone suffers a direct blow to the shoulder or when someone falls on the shoulder with the arm close to the body, or when they fall onto an outstretched hand, thus putting a lot of weight and force on the shoulder. Shoulder separation can also be the cause of a sports injury, car accident, or other types of accidents that impact the shoulder area.

Non-Surgical Treatment for Shoulder Separation

Shoulder separation injuries are classified based on their severity. More minor injuries can often be successfully treated through non-invasive measures, meaning that surgery is not required. At our Austin practice, non-surgical treatments for a separated shoulder may include:

  • Resting the joint with the use of a sling or other support
  • Pain medication to control discomfort and inflammation
  • Use of cold compresses or ice packs to minimize pain and inflammation
  • Physical therapy or exercises to rebuild strength and flexibility as the muscles and ligaments heal

With these treatment methods, minor shoulder separation injuries usually heal within a matter of weeks.

Surgery for Shoulder Separation

Severe shoulder separation injuries, or those that do not respond to non-invasive treatment techniques, are likely to require surgery. Shoulder separation surgery is customized based on the patient's needs. Surgical treatment may involve repairing the ligaments that support the AC joint (possibly using ligaments from another part of the body) or using screws to bring the collarbone back in alignment with the scapula.

Contact Us

If you are experiencing pain around the shoulder joint or have limited mobility due to an injury, you may be suffering from shoulder separation. To learn how the doctors at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin can help you restore comfort and mobility, send us a message online or call (512) 476-2830 and schedule an appointment.