Acromioclavicular luxation

In an Acromioclavicular (AC) luxation, the collarbone has become dislocated. This can be caused by a hard blow or after a fall. In this article you can read about the AC joint, the different degrees of damage and its treatment.

The AC joint

The AC joint provides the connection between the collarbone and the upper part of the shoulder blade. It is a very important joint, because it controls the entire mobility of the shoulder girdle and arm. If this joint does not function, the arm’s freedom of movement is limited by approximately 20%.

Three different degrees

An AC luxation can be classified into three different grades, with grade I being the least serious and grade III being the most serious.

Grade I

  • Mild pain and swelling at the AC joint
  • Mild pain at the AC joint when moving the shoulder
  • No pain in the CC ligaments


Grade II

  • Marked pain at the AC joint
  • Possibly swelling at the AC joint
  • Clavicle can move under pressure
  • Pain in the CC ligaments

A grade I or II luxation is in principle not treated surgically. The shoulder must rest, this can be done with the help of a sling, after which physiotherapy can be started. Most patients continue to have pain for a while, but when this has disappeared the shoulder is fine again.

Grade III

  • The patient supports the elbow of the affected shoulder to relieve pain
  • Every shoulder movement causes pain
  • Marked swelling at the AC joint
  • The end of the collarbone can be pressed, like a piano key

In the case of a grade III luxation, it may be decided to proceed with surgery. This often happens in the case of injuries in sporty people or people who do heavy physical work where good use of the shoulder is essential. This operation repairs the joint and returns the collarbone to its normal position in relation to the shoulder blade.

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