the ac joint – shoulder

common causes of the ac joint injuries are caused by a fall or direct blow to the shoulder.

What is it?

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is a synovial joint located at the top of the shoulder, where the acromion process of the scapula meets the lateral end of the clavicle. It is supported by ligaments and surrounded by joint capsule and cartilage. The AC joint allows for shoulder mobility and plays a crucial role in various arm movements.

Common causes of ac joint pain

  1. Trauma or dislocation: Direct impact to the shoulder, falls onto an outstretched hand or elbow, or sports-related injuries can lead to AC joint dislocation or sprains
  2. Osteoarthritis: Degenerative changes in the AC joint due to wear and tear over time can cause pain, inflammation, and reduced joint function
  3. Overuse or repetitive strain: Repetitive activities, such as overhead lifting or sports movements that stress the AC joint, may contribute to pain and discomfort
  4. Other conditions: Certain underlying conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or post-traumatic arthritis can also lead to AC joint pain

Early Precautions to Prevent AC Joint Injuries

Taking early precautions can help reduce the risk of AC joint injuries. Here are some preventive measures:

  1. Proper warm-up: Always warm up before engaging in physical activities or sports. Incorporate dynamic stretches and movements to prepare your shoulder joints.
  2. Technique and form: Maintain proper technique and form while performing exercises or sports movements. Improper form can increase stress on the AC joint and lead to injury.
  3. Gradual progression: Progress your exercise or training intensity gradually. Avoid sudden increases in workload to allow your joints and muscles to adapt.
  4. Protective equipment: Use appropriate protective gear or equipment, such as shoulder pads or supportive braces, when participating in contact sports or activities with a high risk of shoulder impact.
  5. Strength and flexibility training: Focus on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint, including the rotator cuff muscles and scapular stabilisers. Also, prioritise flexibility exercises to maintain optimal joint mobility.

By implementing these precautions, you can minimise the risk of AC joint injuries and maintain shoulder health.

How can physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy plays a vital role in the management of AC joint pain and instability. A physiotherapist can provide tailored treatment approaches to address your specific condition. Here are some ways physiotherapy can help:

  • Pain management: Physiotherapists can utilise techniques such as manual therapy, soft tissue mobilisation, and modalities like ultrasound or electrical stimulation to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Rehabilitation exercises: Specific exercises targeting the AC joint and surrounding muscles can help improve joint stability, flexibility, and strength. These exercises may include range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and proprioception training.
  • Posture correction: Poor posture can contribute to AC joint pain and instability. Physiotherapists can assess your posture and provide guidance on correcting alignment issues to reduce stress on the AC joint.
  • Biomechanical assessment: A thorough assessment of your movement patterns and shoulder biomechanics can help identify any underlying factors contributing to AC joint pain. Physiotherapists can then provide corrective strategies and recommendations to optimise joint function.
  • Patient education: Physiotherapists can educate you about proper shoulder mechanics, ergonomics, and injury prevention strategies. They can also provide guidance on self-management techniques, such as home exercises and activity modifications.

Overall, physiotherapy aims to reduce pain, improve joint stability, enhance function, and facilitate a safe return to daily activities or sports.



AC joint pain and instability can significantly impact shoulder function and quality of life. Understanding the causes, implementing early precautions, and seeking appropriate physiotherapy intervention are crucial steps in managing these conditions. Physiotherapy offers a multidimensional approach to address pain, improve joint stability, and promote optimal shoulder function. By working with Primal and following our guidance, you can effectively manage AC joint pain, enhance joint health, and regain pain-free mobility.