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Acromioclavicular Joint Arthritis


Caused by ‘wear and tear’ of the AC joint, the joint on the top of the shoulder that connects the scapula (shoulder blade) to the clavicle (collarbone). As the joint wears out, the ends of the bone rub, and become painful. Bone spurs may develop, causing pressure on the muscles underneath.


Common Causes

There may be an old history of an AC sprain, or other shoulder injury. Weightlifters are prone to this condition at a younger age. Often no cause is found, other than ‘wear and tear’.



Pain, generally on the top of the shoulder, which may radiate up to the neck, the upper arm, or the back of the shoulder. Pain is usually worsened with sleeping on the side, lifting, and reaching across the body.


Physical Findings

Tenderness at the AC joint, positive physical exam tests.



Physical exam and x-rays are diagnostic.


Non-operative Treatment

Anti-inflammatory medications, and a trial of a corticosteroid injection. Physical therapy often aggravates symptoms.


Surgical Treatment

Shoulder arthroscopy, with removal of a small portion of the end of the collarbone, so that the two bones do not rub anymore.


Injury Comment

Generally this condition slowly progresses, and non-operative treatment is of limited relief. Most of the time, the entire surgical procedure can be done arthroscopically, without a large incision, and with rapid return to full activities and pain relief.