AC Joint Injury Specialist

Joseph B. Wilson, MD

Orthopedic Shoulder Surgeon located in Raleigh, NC & Apex, NC

Severe shoulder pain that results from a fall may be due to an acromioclavicular (AC) joint injury. At Shoulder Expert of Raleigh, fellowship-trained orthopedic shoulder surgeon and sports medicine specialist Joseph Wilson, MD, diagnoses and treats AC joint injuries at three locations in Raleigh, Apex, and Durham, North Carolina. If you think you have an AC joint injury, call the nearest office, or request an appointment online today.

AC Joint Injury Q&A

What is an AC joint injury?

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint connects your collarbone (clavicle) to the acromion, which is the highest point of your shoulder blade.

You can injure the AC joint in many ways. The most common AC joint injuries include:


Arthritis of the AC joint occurs when the cartilage that allows the bones to glide easily against each other wears down. Symptoms of AC joint arthritis include pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the shoulder. Over time, bone spurs may form.

Shoulder fracture

A fracture can affect either bone in the AC joint, including the clavicle or top of your shoulder blade.

AC joint separation

An AC joint separation occurs when the ligaments that hold the joint together stretch and tear. The severity of the tear can range from mild to severe.

A mild AC joint separation looks normal on an X-ray, while the most severe injuries cause a noticeable deformity. A moderate AC joint separation can cause a minor misalignment and small bump.

What can cause an AC joint injury?

Falling on the shoulder or coming into contact with a great force are common causes of AC joint injuries. Arthritis may develop if the injured AC joint doesn’t receive prompt and effective treatment.

Athletes who participate in contact sports like hockey and football are at higher risk for AC joint separation. 

How is an AC joint injury diagnosed and treated?

First, Dr. Wilson performs a physical exam and reviews your symptoms and medical history. He may order X-rays to determine the location of your AC joint injury and confirm a diagnosis.

Then, he develops an individualized treatment plan tailored to your specific injury. In most cases, AC joint injuries resolve with nonsurgical treatments, such as:

  • Activity modification
  • Cold packs
  • Shoulder slings
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
  • Corticosteroid injections

If you have severe shoulder pain or deformity, or if conservative treatments don’t provide adequate relief, Dr. Wilson may recommend surgery. He has extensive experience performing various types of shoulder surgery, including minimally invasive arthroscopy.

Dr. Wilson provides all patients with concierge care. He gives you his personal cellphone number to ensure you feel confident and supported throughout your recovery process.

For excellent care of any type of AC joint injury, call Shoulder Expert of Raleigh, or book an appointment online today.