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AC Joint Pain Treatment: What You Should Know

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is one of the most important joints in the body. Pain in this area can severely impact daily activities, including exercises, sports, and simple overhead movements. AC joint pain and shoulder arthritis can affect both younger and older people. 

So how does AC joint pain treatment work? Treatment for AC joint arthritis or pain includes home remedies, lifestyle modifications, and non-surgical therapies. The goal is to reduce pain and allow freer movement especially in the clavicle and shoulder blade. For best results, consult with your provider for accurate diagnosis and treatments.

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Understanding Your AC Joint Pain

The AC joint is the meeting point of the shoulder blade’s peak (acromion) and clavicle. There are ligaments that connect the acromion directly to the collarbone. When an accident causes a sprain, the cartilage around the AC joint can become damaged and cause pain and restricted movement. A rotator cuff tear is one of the most common effects after an accident involving the upper arm and shoulder. 

A direct blow to the area, either by a punch or a projectile, can also lead to pain. A lack of lubrication may also lead to a cuff tear, shoulder separation, or dislocation. In some cases, AC arthritis has no clear cause.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Whatever the cause, AC joint injury is marked by a sharp pain that makes it difficult to do overhead or twisting movements with the arm. The pain is sometimes associated with dislocations, which can happen while playing sports. Shoulder joint pain may be accompanied by swelling on top of the arm. 

The signs and symptoms of AC joint sprain vary depending on the origin. Besides the pain, soreness can also occur. If caused by an injury, bruising may also be visible in the area. Dislocations may also lead to a change in the shape of the shoulder—a bulge may be prominent on top of it. Nerve damage in the area may cause the shoulder to droop or the collar bone to shift upward. 

Diagnosing AC Joint Pain

Acromioclavicular joint arthritis is not a disease on its own. However, your physician may “diagnose” or describe your symptoms as ACJ pain in an initial check-up. Diagnosis is often straightforward and based on your description of the symptoms. Your doctor or physiotherapist may conduct a physical exam to feel for shoulder pain. 

If you get pain when you attempt to bring your arm across your chest or neck, you may have damage in the AC joint. Your doctor may also order an x-ray to rule out fractures. Additional tests may be ordered if extensive shoulder injury is suspected. 

Conservative Treatment for AC Joint Pain

AC joint osteoarthritis can be managed through a variety of techniques. At the onset, conservative management is prioritized over surgical treatment. These techniques include simple at-home solutions, such as cold compresses and over-the-counter drugs. 

If these don’t work, you may have extensive joint injury that can be remedied via other forms of acromioclavicular joint pain treatment. Shoulder instability may be treated with physical therapy or steroid injections. 

1) Home Remedies

Using a cold compress is one of the most common home remedies for acromioclavicular osteoarthritis. The cool temperature constricts the blood vessels, lessening pain and swelling in the area. Apply the compress directly to the pain location for at least 15 minutes. Additionally, you may also alternate the cold compress with a hot pack. Make sure to avoid using bare ice or boiling water to the area, as this could lead to burns. 

You may also use a sling to hold the joint firmly in place. The sling could help the area heal properly, allowing for better movement. For some people, a warm salt bath could also soothe pain and relax the muscles around the joint. You can add essential oils to the salt bath for a more relaxing effect. 

If your pain is acute and not related to an injury, you may massage the area. To reach difficult areas in the shoulder blade, you can place a tennis ball between a wall and your body. Apply pressure between you and the ball and roll around. The motion may provide you relief from the tension around the joint. 

2) Lifestyle Changes

In many cases, arm and shoulder exercises are effective in lessening the pain around the joint area. They also help build strength around the muscles. Gentle neck and shoulder rolls, as well as shoulder blade squeezes, can help with mobility problems.

There are cases where the AC joint pain comes from a poor diet. Some food items, such as fish and dairy, can help restore strength to the bones and muscles. You can also increase your water intake to 8 to 10 glasses (2 liters in total) per day. Acute ACJ arthritis can also be caused by stress and fatigue, so ensure that you get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. A comfortable sleeping position is also necessary to prevent shoulder injury upon waking up. 

3) Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

A dose of Tylenol or other common analgesics can help you with sudden pain. Make sure to follow the instructions on the drug packet to avoid overdosing. If paracetamol doesn’t seem to be working, you can also try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications reduce swelling and inflammation around the muscles and joints. Some common examples include:

  • Aspirin
  • Celecoxib
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

If you have asthma, intestinal issues, or hypertension, NSAIDs may cause an adverse reaction. Make sure to contact your doctor before you take any form of medication. These drugs aren’t meant for long-term use, and should be discontinued after 10 days. 

4) Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help restore mobility in the area. If your joints still feel sore and painful after over-the-counter drugs, a physiotherapist can help you create a treatment plan that targets the painful joint or separated shoulder. Your physical therapist may use patient education and light exercise recommendations. Manual therapy and functional training may also be used during visits to the therapy center. 

5) Steroid Injections

If 4 to 6 weeks have passed and you’re not improving with physical therapy, a steroid injection may be your next best option. Steroid injections are considered only when physical therapy and home remedies have been unsuccessful. The most commonly used steroid is cortisone, which is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. Your physician may use an ultrasound machine to guide them during the procedure.

If your pain results from an injury, a steroid injection won’t be considered until slings or other conservative therapies have been exhausted. Steroids may interfere with the body’s natural healing response, which can be harmful if you sustain more injuries in the future. Usually, only a single injection is necessary for acute joint pain. 

Non-Surgical Procedures for AC Joint Pain at aNu Aesthetics

There are also other non-surgical procedures that can help with long-term relief for facet joint pains. It’s important to undergo treatments supervised by licensed health care professionals, such as an orthopedic surgeon or specialist. Most of these procedures need multiple sessions for maximum effectiveness. 

1) PRP for Joints

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a concentration derived from the patient’s blood. A specialist extracts blood from a part of your body, usually an injury-free arm, and places it into a centrifuge. The instrument spins rapidly to distinguish the PRP from other parts of the blood. The resulting solution will be injected directly into the AC ligament. PRP is also used for rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Platelet-rich plasma aims to decrease pain and encourage mobility. The plasma helps rebuild any damaged tissues surrounding the area. PRP injections are minimally invasive and a typical procedure lasts around 30 minutes. The plasma is also used to stimulate the production of ligament lubrication. PRP has also been used to treat osteoarthritis and other similar conditions. 

2) Ozone Therapy

Ozone therapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses oxygen molecules to encourage healing. It’s used in many cultures to treat joint pain and other similar conditions. Ozone therapy is used as an alternative to steroid injections and surgery. Like PRP, the goal is to reduce pain and inflammation. Ozone works by improving the body’s oxygen levels and stimulating healing around the joint area. 

Ozone therapy is a low-risk procedure. It’s a generally safe procedure, and no major side effects have been observed in controlled studies. Some studies show that ozone therapy is effective in reducing pain, increasing mobility, and stimulating blood circulation around damaged tissues. Ozone therapy takes only 10 minutes per session. Most people will need 6 to 10 treatments in a full cycle. 

3) Regenerative Therapy

The use of stem cells has increased over the years. Some centers have started to incorporate stem cell injections into joint pain treatment. Known collectively as regenerative therapy, these treatments use a combination of platelets and amniotic fluids to stimulate tissue repair around the joints.

Much like PRP and ozone, regenerative therapy works by directly injecting a solution in the area. The entire process takes only a few minutes to finish. You may begin to feel relief after a few days, thanks to the reduced pain and swelling. Regenerative therapy may be a combination of different injectables, depending on your individual treatment plan. 

Get the Best Health and Wellness Treatments at aNu Aesthetics

As you recover from AC joint pain, it’s important to have the best care for your healing body. Non-surgical methods can be combined with home remedies and lifestyle changes. If you’re suffering from long-term pain in the joints and muscles, a team of licensed professionals can help you create a treatment plan.

PRP, ozone, and regenerative therapies are all effective treatments that stimulate healing and tissue repair around the AC joint. At aNu Aesthetics, our medical staff can guide you in your treatment journey. Each of our treatments is tweaked to match the needs of the client. If you’re interested in taking the next step towards pain relief, don’t hesitate to call us at (816) 670-4406 or email 

Rewind The Clock Both Outside And In

Regenerative therapy has helped countless patients look and feel like the person they were years before. Call us today to book your regenerative therapy consultation.


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