Separated Shoulder – explained

What is a separated shoulder?

Although commonly mistaken in conversation, a separated shoulder is not the same as a dislocated shoulder – dislocation refers to when the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) separates from the shoulder joint. It is a common injury. Separated shoulder is a little more complex and more to do with the ligaments than the shoulder joint itself.

A separated shoulder refers to an injury to the Acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) which makes up a part of the shoulder complex.  The joint is formed between the clavicle and the highest point of the scapula (acromion) and it creates stability through the shoulder joint with overhead and cross body movements with the arm. The ligaments present through the joint provide the AC joint with increased stability.


Injury to the AC joint can result from direct blunt force trauma to the shoulder.  
Some common causes involve:

  • A fall onto your shoulder
  • Contact sports which involve tackling or taking hits to the shoulder
  • Motor vehicle accidents  


Types of AC injuries:

There are 6 different types which depends on the extent of the injury and the number of ligaments involved.  They can be differentiated by a physical assessment and the use of an x-ray

It’s vital to get a correct diagnosis, which is available to you at Physico City Physiotherapy, as we work closely with the doctors of Hyde Park Medical centre, all medical services are available.

Type I, II, III are managed conservatively and recovery can range anywhere between 2-12 weeks.

Type IV, V, and VI are more serious of an injury and would require surgical intervention.

Shoulder Injury Physio Sydney CBD

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Pain at the top of the shoulder
  • Bruising and/or swelling
  • A deformity or a visible bump on the top of the shoulder
  • Limited shoulder range, usually with overhead and across body movements.



There is no quick fix for an injury such as a separated shoulder, you must follow the guidance of your health practitioner to assure it heals correctly. It is recommended that Type I, II, and III AC injuries to be managed conservatively as most people are able to return to near-full function in the presence of a deformity.  

Conservative treatments may involve:arm sling for shoulder injury sydney cbd


Surgical Procedures

Surgical interventions to repair the AC joint are typically recommended for more severe injuries or for those who are not responding to conservative therapy.  In this case, it is vital to follow your surgeon’s post-operative orders and seek a qualified physiotherapist with your rehabilitation. Rehabilitation will generally consist of rest, followed by gentle strength building exercise, it’s important to only go as far with your exercise therapy as prescribed when recovering from a separated shoulder injury

Should you feel you have injured your shoulder, do not delay, the position of the tissues as they heal is very important to you making a full recovery. Contact our helpful team of extensively qualified Physiotherapists at our Sydney CBD location today on 9267 3775