AC Joint Sprain


Low – mod

6 – 12 wks

Clavicle fracture

What is an AC joint sprain?

The AC joint (acromio-clavicular joint) lives between the pointy bit of the top of your shoulder and the collar bone. Its held together by some super strong ligaments but these can get damaged with injury. As with most ligament injuries we can grade these from 1-3 but there is a decent amount of cross over with the grades. 1 = mild, a few ligament fibres torn. 2 = a decent job with a good sized tear. 3 = complete tear and dislocation of joint (also looks more gnarly).

Why does an AC joint sprain happen?

There are 2 main ways to injure your AC joint. One is landing onto the point of the shoulder (think a rugby tackle or falling off a bike). The other is landing onto an outstretched straight arm. Hard ground (like a road or a hot baked footy field) and lots of force (tackle, falling off a horse or a fast bike) will increase the risk of an AC joint injury.

What can you do about an AC joint sprain?
AC Joint Physiotherapy in Newcastle.

1. Tape it. The ligaments will often feel better with some support. Your physio can apply some proper strapping tape to give the joint more stability and this makes it feels better.
2. Rest it. This should be obvious but some nutty sports people want to get straight back out there into competition and this can increase the risk of making it worse. Give it some space to heal!
3. Strengthen it. As soon as you can, try some gentle strength work. Even if its just some easy-going isometric exercises. If pain allows it. Then move onto harder exercises once its past the initial phase. Gotta get strong!
4. Move it. If its a decent AC joint injury it won’t feel like moving much, but try and do what you can. Gentle. Outside of big pain.
5. Push it. Once most of the pain and inflammation has settled around the 5-6 wk mark it can help for your physio to mobilise the joint. It’s common for it to feel pretty sticky and stubborn at this point so manual therapy can help.

How long will an AC joint sprain take?

Depends on the grade. A grade 1 might settle down in 3-4 wks, Grade 2 in 6-8 wks and a Grade 3 might be 12 wks +. The really dodgy unstable Grade 3 injuries can sometimes require a surgical opinion.


Most AC joint injuries end up with a lump on top of their shoulder. For ever. So if a shoulder modelling career is your main source of income – maybe switch to elbow modelling. For contact sports physios can make a thermoplastic guard that can enable a faster return to sport by protecting the joint. Chat to your physio about whether this is an option for you.

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If pain persists, you may require the help of a professional physio. Contact Brightside Physio to make an appointment.


Brightside Physio
90 Elder St
Lambton (Newcastle)
NSW 2299

New location!
15 Lambton Rd
Broadmeadow (Newcastle)
NSW 2292



Find parking via De Vitre Street and walk down side alley to Elder Street entrance.



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Call us on (02) 4062 8862