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Acromioclavicular Arthritis

What is Acromioclavicular (AC) Arthritis?

Similar to other forms of arthritis, the AC joint form of the disease is likely multifactorial. We know that previous trauma and repetitive activities can lead to AC arthritis.

How does AC joint arthritis happen?

How is AC joint arthritis treatment?

Acromioclavicular or AC arthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs in the shoulder. It is located at the joint in the shoulder where the acromion of the scapula or shoulder blade meets the clavicle or collar bone. Like other forms of arthritis, AC arthritis is a loss of the cartilage that usually covers the joint and it leads to bone-on-bone contact that is painful. 

We try to treat arthritis with nonoperative treatments including medications, therapy, and injections. In certain situations, the distal clavicle may be surgically removed so that the bones are not able to make contact and cause pain. This surgical resection is performed in one of two ways. One method is all arthroscopic and is reserved for mild and moderate AC degeneration. If the AC joint is severely deformed from the arthritis, you may require a larger open incision to remove the damaged joint.


The recovery is relatively quick and most people are getting back to activities in about a month.

Anatomy of the Shoulder.  Image courtesy of WikiCommons.

The arrow points to the AC joint on this body-builder.

1. Rios CG, Mazzocca AD. Acromioclavicular Joint Problems in Athletes and New Methods of Management. Clinics in Sports Medicine. 2008;27(4):763-788. doi:10.1016/j.csm.2008.06.006.

2. Gokkus K, Saylik M, Atmaca H, Sagtas E, Aydin AT. Limited distal clavicle excision of acromioclavicular joint osteoarthritis. Orthopaedics & Traumatology: Surgery & Research. 2016;102(3):311-318. doi:10.1016/j.otsr.2016.01.008.

3. Skelley, N. “Treatment of Athletes with Shoulder Arthritis.” Presented at: Massachusetts General Hospital Sports Medicine Grand Rounds; Boston, MA. November 2016.


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