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A shoulder separation is the partial or complete separation of two parts of the shoulder. It occurs when the outer end of the collarbone (clavicle) separates from the end (acromion) of the shoulder blade because of torn ligaments.
This injury occurs most often from a blow to the top of the shoulder or a fall onto the shoulder. A shoulder separation is classified according to how severely these ligaments are injured:
There are three further classifications, types IV through VI, which are uncommon.
A direct blow to the top of the shoulder or a fall onto the shoulder, such as a fall from a bicycle, can cause a shoulder separation.
Symptoms of a shoulder separation include pain when the injury occurs. Limited shoulder movement as well as swelling and bruising may follow. The small joint over the shoulder may be tender. A deformity is possible at the outer end of the collarbone. There may be a bump on top of the shoulder.
A shoulder separation is diagnosed through a medical history, a physical exam, and an X-ray.
Your doctor will check:
Your doctor will probably X-ray your injured shoulder and possibly your uninjured shoulder to help diagnose the severity of the separation.
Treatment of a shoulder separation depends on its severity. For a type I or II injury, you support your shoulder with a sling. You typically need the sling until the discomfort decreases (a few days to a week). Early physical therapy to strengthen your shoulder and regain range of motion is important for recovery and to prevent frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), a condition that limits shoulder motion . You can return to normal exercises and activities as your pain and other symptoms go away.
Treatment for type III injuries can vary. Some doctors treat them with a sling and physical therapy, while others feel surgery may be needed.
Type IV through VI injuries should be evaluated for possible surgery.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicinePatrick J. McMahon MD - Orthopedic Surgery
Current as of: March 9, 2022
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon MD - Orthopedic Surgery
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