Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"I separated my AC joint over a year ago and it hasn't gone back into place yet. Do I need surgery?"

ZocdocAnswersI separated my AC joint over a year ago and it hasn't gone back into place yet. Do I need surgery?


The doctor said it was a stage II separation and that it should heal on its own. That was about 9 months ago and it still hasn't moved back into place yet. The separation got smaller between the initial injury and when I saw the doctor in March, but he past few months there has been pain in my shoulder and the separation has become larger since March when I saw the doctor about it.


Thank you for this question. In order to provide an accurate answer, I would need more information. I would need to review your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam, including a detailed shoulder exam. I would also need to review your initial imaging studies. Based on these findings, you may need repeat imaging studies, such as an x-ray or MRI. Only after collecting this information would it be possible to proceed. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. AC joint separations often reduce and heal on their own. If you are suffering ongoing pain, it is possible this joint has not healed to an adequate degree, and you may require surgery to repair it. You would need to be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon to determine this. It is also possible you suffered an additional injury to the shoulder. Damage to the rotator cuff, which is a group of four muscles controlling the joint, can lead to pain. You may have injured the labrum, which is a piece of tissue lining the joint. Cartilage lines the humeral head and can be painful if damaged. You will need to discuss these possibilities with an orthopedic surgeon.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.