The AC joint, or acromioclavicular joint, is the connection between the top of your shoulder blade and your collarbone. Separation occurs when the ligaments are injured as the result of a direct blow or a fall. In most cases mild trauma can be treated at home, but more severe cases can require surgery. Rehab and recovery involve flexibility and strengthening exercises performed under the guidance of your health care provider.
Begin your rehab with range-of-motion exercises to maintain the flexibility of the muscles and tendons. An effective exercise is the pendulum swing. Stand, bend over, hold onto a sturdy object for support and allow the arm of the injured shoulder to hang vertically. Swing your arm up and back 10 times, no more than 12 inches in each direction, then side to side and then in small circles. Perform the exercise twice per day. After one week, perform the exercise with a 1-pound weight, and gradually increase your movements to 24 inches.
After two weeks, and as long as the pain level remains low, progress to strengthening exercises. Use the pendulum swing as a warm-up, then perform exercises such as external rotations. Roll up a towel and hold it between your elbow and body, below the injured shoulder. Bend your elbow 90 degrees, slowly move your hand outward as far as you comfortably can, reverse your movement and repeat. Perform the exercise 20 times.
Some soreness while exercising is common and may last up to 24 hours. If you feel severe pain or soreness that lasts for more than a day, consult your doctor. For a complete list of rehab exercises, work with your health care provider or physical therapist.