Acromioclavicular osteoarthritis

What are the signs of acromioclavicular osteoarthritis?

Acromioclavicular osteoarthritis, or arthritis where the collar bone meets the acromion (part of the shoulder blade), causes sharp pain at the top of the shoulder. The pain worsens significantly when crossing the arms across the chest or when making a pushing movement, like a push-up or bench press.

Possible repercussions

This degenerative condition, which can occur at any age, often appears in patients as young as 30 who are very physically active. It is also common in patients over 50. Acromioclavicular osteoarthritis can cause unsightly bony growths (bone spurs) to form that can lead to the impingement of the shoulder tendons.

Non-surgical treatment

There are several non-surgical treatment options for people suffering from acromioclavicular osteoarthritis.

  • The best treatment is always to avoid the activity that caused the impingement in the first place. Rest, ice, and oral anti-inflammatory drugs are also recommended.
  • Ultrasound-guided cortisone injections may be administered by a specialist if pain persists for more than a month.
  • An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan or ultrasound is prescribed for persistent pain.

Surgical treatment

The goal of surgery is to create enough space to prevent bone-on-bone contact. This arthroscopic procedure is performed using very small surgical instruments inserted through short incisions.

About the procedure

  • Outpatient arthroscopic procedure
  • Length of procedure: 45 to 90 minutes
  • Regional anesthesia (the entire arm and shoulder are blocked) by an anaesthesiologist. The patient remains conscious during the procedure.
  • If the patient would like to be sedated, a mild, short-acting sedative can be administered.

Post-surgical recovery

Patients may be escorted home approximately one hour after their procedure. Numbness in the shoulder wears off after approximately 6 to 18 hours. It is recommended that patients take pain relievers during the first few days after surgery. A post-operative follow-up is required two weeks after the procedure to remove the patient’s stitches.

About recovery

  • Non-physical activities may be resumed the next day if pain levels permit.
  • Patients can resume non-strenuous activities during the first week (cooking, driving, writing, typing).
  • Pendulum exercises must be performed starting the first several days to minimize adhesion formation
  • Patients can resume more strenuous activities after two to three months (exercise, swimming, tennis, carpentry).

  • Recovery rate: 90%
  • Complication rate: less than 1%

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