AC Joint Arthritis/Weightlifter’s Shoulder

AC Joint Arthritis/Weightlifter’s Shoulder

What is Weightlifter’s Shoulder?

A form of Acromioclavicular (AC) Arthritis, it involves the joint between the outer end of the clavicle and the scapula and is relatively common.  For patients with this condition, pain at the top of the shoulder is common with strenuous activity and at night.  Arthritis of this joint occurs more frequently in men and is often related to heavy physical activity and weightlifting.  It can occur in all ages but is most common in younger men involved in weight training.

How is AC joint arthritis treated?

Unlike most joints that develop arthritis, however, inflammation of the AC joint can spontaneously resolve without surgery.  This requires time and rest, occasionally a cortisone injection may be necessary.  Nonsurgical treatment is the recommended initial treatment.

When is surgery considered for AC joint arthritis?

If the pain does not improve or allow resumption of normal physical activity after nonoperative treatment, surgical treatment may be considered.  Unlike most arthritic joints, this joint does not require a replacement.  Rather, surgical removal of a narrow portion of the collarbone is performed.  This is an outpatient procedure and can be done either arthroscopically or through a small incision just above the shoulder.  The extent of inflammation of the clavicle is the most important factor in deciding to perform this arthroscopically vs. open.  The most common cause of failed arthroscopic treatment of this problem is failure to recognize and remove the entire area of the collarbone involved.  Drs. Bak, Frush and Silas carefully evaluate this issue and your entire shoulder to determine which surgical approach will be most successful for you–all 3 of them are experienced in both approaches.

What is the recovery like and when can I return to physical activity?

After surgery, a sling is worn for several days and then active motion and gentle use of the arm begins.  Generally, your return to vigorous physician activities takes approximately 3 months after surgery.