When Does a Separated Shoulder Require Surgery?

When the ligaments connecting the collarbone and shoulder blade break, it frequently results in shoulder separation. The extent of the injury is determined by the tear’s size. Although non-surgical treatment is effective in treating the majority of shoulder separation cases, surgery is occasionally required.

We’ll talk about when surgery is necessary for a separated shoulder in this blog post.

Understanding Shoulder Separation

It’s critical to comprehend the issue itself before getting into the specifics of when shoulder separation necessitates surgery.

Acromioclavicular (AC), also known as shoulder separation, happens when the ligaments holding the collarbone and shoulder blade together are ripped. This may lead to discomfort, edema, and arm stiffness.

Types of Shoulder Separation

From minor to severe, there are six different forms of shoulder separation. The most frequent types, Type I and Type II, can be managed without surgery. The more severe Type III, IV, V, and VI may necessitate surgery.

  • A partial tear or sprain of the AC ligament is a factor in type I shoulder separation. This is the most frequent form of shoulder separation, and non-surgical treatment methods including rest, ice, compression, and physical therapy usually help it recover on its own.
  • A complete tear of the AC ligament and a partial tear of the coracoclavicular (CC) ligament characterize Type II shoulder separation. Surgery may be necessary for this kind of injury. However, non-surgical care is frequently successful.
  • The AC and CC ligaments are completely torn in type III shoulder separation. To restore normal joint function after this kind of injury, surgery is frequently required.
  • The AC and CC ligaments are completely torn in type IV shoulder separation, and the collarbone is also displaced. Typically, surgery is required to restore the damaged ligaments and realign the collarbone.
  • The AC and CC ligaments are completely torn in type V shoulder separation, and the collarbone is displaced and can be seen through the skin. Often, surgery is required to restore the damaged ligaments and realign the collarbone.
  • The AC and CC ligaments are completely torn in type VI shoulder separation, and the collarbone is displaced behind the shoulder blade. Typically, surgery is required to restore the damaged ligaments and realign the collarbone.

During a physical examination, X-rays, and/or an MRI, your doctor will be able to assess the seriousness of your injuries.

separated shoulder?

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Rest, ice, compression, and physical therapy are often the non-surgical treatments for treating shoulder separation. Also, your physician might advise over-the-counter pain relievers or a sling to immobilize the shoulder. Corticosteroid injections may be employed under specific conditions to lessen inflammation.

When Surgery is Necessary

Only the more serious cases of shoulder separation require surgery. This is because surgery carries risks like infection, blood loss, and nerve damage. Surgery, however, can be necessary if the AC joint is totally displaced or if there is extensive ligament injury.

Surgical Procedures

A separated shoulder can be treated surgically using a variety of techniques. AC joint reconstruction is the most popular technique. Damaged ligaments are repaired using either a synthetic graft or a tendon from another part of the body in this treatment. Stabilization of the AC joint and clavicle fixation are additional surgeries.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Following shoulder separation surgery, recovery usually lasts many months. The patient might have to keep their shoulder immobilized during this period by donning a sling. To assist the shoulder, regain its strength and range of motion, physical treatment is also required.

Risks and Complications

Shoulder separation surgery carries the same risks and problems as any surgical treatment. Infection, hemorrhage, nerve injury, and an allergic reaction to anesthesia are a few of these that might occur. Your doctor will review the possible risks with you before the operation.

Preventing Shoulder Separation

Even though not all shoulder separation injuries can be avoided, there are things you may take to lower your risk of suffering one. They consist of keeping a proper posture, lifting correctly, and participating in physical activity while wearing safety equipment.

Consulting with a Specialist

Consult with a professional who has experience treating injuries and conditions of the shoulder if you are exhibiting signs of a separated shoulder.

Idaho Shoulder to Hand is dedicated to providing patients with injuries and disorders of the upper extremities with cutting-edge diagnostics, therapy options, and surgery. The optimum course of therapy for your particular ailment can be decided with the assistance of their skilled team.


What is a separated shoulder?

An AC joint separation, or separated shoulder, involves injury to the ligaments connecting the collarbone and shoulder blade at the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint).

When does a separated shoulder require surgery?

A split shoulder can typically be treated conservatively with rest, ice, and physical therapy instead of requiring surgery. Surgery may be necessary to fix or reconstruct damaged ligaments if the separation is severe, causing significant pain, deformity, or misaligned bones.

What are the symptoms of a separated shoulder?

A separated shoulder may exhibit symptoms such as soreness, bruising, swelling, restricted range of motion, a lump on the shoulder, and a popping or grinding sound when moved.

What is the recovery time for a separated shoulder?

A separated shoulder’s recovery period varies based on the injury’s severity and the chosen course of treatment. It can take 6–8 weeks for a full recovery with conservative treatment, which commonly involves immobilizing the arm in a sling before beginning physical therapy. If surgery is needed, the recovery period may span 3–4 months.

Can a separated shoulder cause long-term damage?

Untreated or severe separated shoulder injuries may lead to long-lasting issues such as chronic pain, weakness, and limited shoulder movement.

Can a separated shoulder cause long-term damage?

Shoulder surgery has dangers, just like any other type of surgery. These concerns include infection, hemorrhage, nerve injury, and anesthesia-related issues. Additionally, the healing process may be long and involve extensive physical therapy.

Can a separated shoulder cause long-term damage?

Other options for treating a separated shoulder include rest, ice, physical therapy, and painkillers such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).

Final Thoughts

Not every shoulder separation situation needs surgery. For mild to moderate cases, non-surgical therapy alternatives are often successful. Surgery, however, can be required in cases that are more serious.

It’s crucial to speak with a doctor if you are showing signs of a separated shoulder so they can assist you decide the best course of action for your particular problem. Give Idaho Shoulder to Hand a call if you are in need of an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in shoulder treatment.