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Shoulder Separation

What is shoulder separation?

Shoulder separation is a result of damage or injury to the ligaments that connect the collarbone to the shoulder blade. Some forms of this condition may be mild in that the ligaments are only stretched, where other forms may result in severe injuries such as complete tears or ruptures to the ligament.  Falling on your shoulder or a direct blow to the shoulder joint are the two main causes of most separated shoulders.  Individuals who play certain sports such as hockey, football, or volleyball, or who engage in gymnastics, are more prone to this type of injury.

What are the symptoms of shoulder separation?

Symptoms of a separated shoulder include:

  • Pain or swelling in the shoulder
  • Weakness of the shoulder
  • Appearance of bruising or a bump near the shoulder
  • Restricted movement of the joint

If you are experiencing symptoms of a separated shoulder your condition should be evaluated by a physician.

How is shoulder separation diagnosed?

If you are experiencing symptoms of shoulder separation and have recently suffered a traumatic injury, you seek medical attention promptly. During your appointment, a physician will perform a physical examination of your shoulder and evaluate the strength, mobility and stability of your joint.  Specific tests such as X-rays may also be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Most separated shoulders, however, are easily diagnosed with a physical examination alone.

How is shoulder separation treated?

Shoulder separation is mostly treated with nonsurgical methods such as rest, reduction of physical activity and use of anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy and strengthening exercises can help to restore function and stability of the shoulder joint. For many individuals, conservative treatment methods work within weeks; however, surgical options are also made available if the injury is severe.

Arthroscopy is a common surgical method used to correct a separated shoulder. An arthroscope is used to repair or reconstruct the damaged ligaments. Most individuals are referred to a physical therapy treatment plan after surgery to help restore strength and mobility to their shoulders.


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