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Shoulder sprain (acromio clavicular joint)

Patient information A-Z

What is a shoulder sprain?

The acromio clavicular joint (ACJ) sits between the top of the shoulder blade and the far end of the clavicle. The ligaments and muscles holding the clavicle to the shoulder blade have been injured. A sling will help support your arm in a comfortable position for a few days.

X-ray showing a shoulder sprain

Swelling and bruising at the fracture site is normal. Simple, over the counter painkillers and applying ice to the area will help to reduce swelling and pain. Ice should be applied, wrapped in a tea towel, for 20 minutes, three to four times a day.

  • You should start using your arm within the limits of your pain, particularly hand, wrist and elbow.
  • You should take pain relief as needed to keep the shoulder moving gently.
  • You should not drive or cycle whilst wearing the sling.
  • You should not take part in any physical contact sports for 8 to 12 weeks as guided by your consultant.
  • You should not miss your appointment with the shoulder specialist if scheduled.

At your appointment the shoulder may be x-rayed again in case the specialist is unhappy with the original x-rays. The shoulder specialist will then discuss further options for managing your injury at this appointment.

Approximately 80% of patients get better with non-operative management, especially if no overhead or manual activities are required for their jobs or hobbies.

If your condition is not improving, or if your pain relief is not adequate, please contact your GP. If your condition is worsening, please contact the multi-professional fracture clinic on 01223 348299 or 01223 257095.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151