A shoulder separation occurs when the strong band of tissue that attaches the collarbone to the shoulder blade is overstretched or torn. When no longer securely anchored, the collarbone may shift out of position and press against the skin. This type of injury can result from a fall onto an outstretched arm or a direct blow to the point of the shoulder. As such, shoulder separations are common among athletes who play contact sports, such as hockey and football, or engage in activities that often involve falling, such as gymnastics and skiing.
What Does a Shoulder Separation Feel Like?
The most common sign of a shoulder separation is pain near the end of the collarbone. Other symptoms can include swelling, bruising, arm muscle weakness, reduced range of motion, and a visible bump near the top of the shoulder.
If you have shoulder pain, you should seek prompt medical attention to help prevent it from worsening. In Rawlins, Wyoming, you can receive outstanding orthopedic care from the experienced team at Premier Bone & Joint Centers. To evaluate and diagnose your injury, we will perform a physical examination and possibly order an imaging test, such as an X-ray, which can be performed on site.
How Is a Shoulder Separation Treated?
A minor shoulder separation may resolve on its own within a few weeks, but a more severe injury can take up to several months to fully heal. In the meantime, the related discomfort can usually be managed with conservative therapies, such as:
- Rest and activity modifications – Body positions and movements that aggravate the pain, such as crossing the arm in front of the body, should be avoided as much as possible.
- Cold therapy – An ice pack can be applied to the separated shoulder to help reduce painful swelling.
- Immobilization – A sling can be worn to temporarily immobilize the arm and alleviate pressure on the shoulder.
- Physical therapy – Targeted stretches and strengthening exercises can help restore shoulder flexibility, range of motion, and strength.
- Medications – Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve inflammation.
If a shoulder separation causes severe pain or involves a fractured clavicle, we may suggest surgical treatment to repair the torn ligament or reposition the displaced bone.
To help ensure proper healing and a full return to activity, a shoulder separation should receive prompt medical attention. Contact Premier Bone & Joint Centers to request an appointment with a shoulder specialist in Rawlins, WY.