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MSD Manual

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Quick Facts

Shoulder Separation

(AC Separation)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Nov 2020| Content last modified Nov 2020
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What is a shoulder separation?

A shoulder separation is a tear in the ligament that holds your collar bone to your shoulder blade.

Ligaments are short, tough bands of tissue that hold your bones together at a joint.

  • Your ligament may be partially or completely torn

  • Shoulder separations are common, especially among people who play sports

  • Your shoulder will be painful and tender

  • You may need a sling or, if the injury is severe, surgery

Anatomy of a Shoulder Joint

Anatomy of a Shoulder Joint

What causes a shoulder separation?

A shoulder separation is usually caused by falling on your shoulder or outstretched arm. It's a common injury for people who do high-speed or contact sports, such as:

  • Rugby

  • Football

  • Skiing

  • Jet-skiing

What are the symptoms of a shoulder separation?

Your shoulder joint is:

  • Painful

  • Tender

How can doctors tell if I have a shoulder separation?

Your doctor will do:

How do doctors treat a shoulder separation?

Treatment depends on how bad your shoulder separation is.

For a mild shoulder separation, doctors will:

  • Have you wear a sling to rest your shoulder

  • Have you do exercises to keep your joint working

For a severe shoulder separation, doctors will:

  • Do surgery on your shoulder

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