Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Arthritis

Acromioclavicular joint arthritis, also known as AC joint arthrosis, occurs as a result of the normal wear and tear associated with the aging process. It is a degeneration of the shoulder joint where the acromion meets the clavicle. It develops when the cartilage that cushions the joint becomes inflamed or begins to wear out with age. As any activity that puts pressure on the joint may eventually cause this condition, years of strain and stress to the joint induces wear and tear to the cartilage resulting in arthritis in the joint.

Acromioclavicular joint arthritis occurs as a result of use and is common among middle­aged men and women. Household activities and occupations that require repetitive overhead motions may place individuals at a higher risk of incidence. Athletes that participate in contact sports and weightlifting also have a higher incidence of degeneration. Additionally, prior injuries to the shoulder joint may lead to degeneration.

Symptoms include pain and tenderness in the front of the shoulder­ around the joint. A decrease in the normal range of motion is noticed, as well as increased pain when moving the arm, swelling at the site of the joint, a clicking sensation when moving the arm, and pain that surrounds the area of the shoulder including the front of the chest and the neck.

This condition is diagnosed through a physical examination. The shoulder will be examined for signs and symptoms that include weakness in the muscles, previous injuries, injuries to the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments, and will check to see if pain is present when pressure is placed on the joint. An X-ray may be taken to confirm diagnosis.

Treatment options include pain relievers, cortisone injections, non­steroidal anti­inflammatory medications, immobilization devices such as a brace or splint, physical therapy and modification of daily activities. Surgery may be required to remove the damaged portions of the AC joint. The surgery may be done arthroscopically or as an open procedure.