The shoulder has four joints that facilitate its various movements. At the top of the shoulder, where the collar bone and shoulder blade come together, is where the AC joint (acromioclavicular joint) is located. Like other joints in the body, it is possible for osteoarthritis to develop in the AC joint. Often, the patient is not even aware of this condition. What may be noticed is a prominent appearance, or the appearance of swelling, at the top of the shoulder.
What is AC joint arthritis?
The reason that osteoarthritis develops in the AC joint is typically because the cartilage that buffers this joint wears thin. With little separation between two pieces of bone, friction may lead to spurs. Fortunately, this is not dangerous to the overall function of the shoulder. At some point, though, arthritis could cause discomfort or limited movement. If this happens, treatment should be sought.
Treating Osteoarthritis of the AC Joint
In many cases, the cause of shoulder pain is related more so to the rotator cuff than the AC joint, even if arthritis exists. However, individuals who engage in heavy weight lifting are an exception. In this group, physicians often see excess wear to the end of the clavicle, or collar bone, due to the repetitive stress of lifting weights. This can lead to painful arthritis.
Depending on the severity of the condition at the time of consultation, it may be possible to mitigate cartilage wear with rest and proper modifications to activities. Patients may find relief from over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, or may need to seek professional treatment such as steroid injections to reduce inflammation. If the rotator cuff is also problematic, physical therapy may be recommended.
A Note about Weight Lifting with AC Joint Arthritis
If you are a weight lifter and you are experiencing chronic pain or stiffness in your shoulder joint, rest may not be the option you want to hear. To continue weight lifting without suffering extensive damage to the AC joint, you may need to move beyond injections and undergo surgery to clean out the arthritic cartilage. Surgery may also create more space between the two bones involved in causing arthritis.
Shoulder pain can be addressed in non-surgical or minimally-invasive ways in many cases. To learn more, call (973) 942-1315.