Acromioclavicular joint, also called the AC joint, is located at the top of the shoulder where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the top most part of the shoulder blade (scapula). There are different types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis being the most common followed by the inflammatory arthritis called Rheumatoid Arthritis.
The Acromioclavicular Osteoarthritis (AC Joint Arthritis) is the progressively degenerative arthritis that affects the AC joint. This cannot be treated completely but it can be slowed down. In this type of arthritis,
- Joint cartilage degenerates
- Bone spurs or abnormal bony growth develop
The different non-surgical treatment options that are recommended by the doctor for patients suffering from AC joint arthritis are:
- Activity Modification
The patient has to change some activities that will aggravate the AC joint and opt for activities with lesser stress on the AC joint. Activities like weight training , throwing sports ,carrying heavy objects and sleeping on the same side will aggrevate the pain .
A stiff joint can be loosened by using a warm pad for a few minutes before an activity. Icing the shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes, three times a day can subside the swelling and provide pain relief.
- Physical Therapy
The doctor might recommend physical therapy with exercises focusing on stretching and strengthening the shoulder muscles and maintaining the shoulder’s range of motion, are prescribed by the doctor.
The doctor might prescribe medication to slow down the progression of the arthritis. Some of them are:
- Oral Analgesics are pain relievers like acetaminophen
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammation drugs like aspirin etc. help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation caused by AC joint arthritis.
- Topical Medications like creams, sprays, gels and patches are applied directly to the painful joint’s skin.
- Steroid Injections
The doctor might recommend steroid injections like cortisone injections for patients suffering from mild to moderate AC arthritis. This injection will help in subsiding swelling and provide pain relief and remove stiffness for time being.
The doctor will recommend AC joint surgery if the osteoarthritis symptoms are severe and the non-surgical treatment options prove ineffective. The surgical procedures that will help treat the osteoarthritis of the shoulder’s AC joint are:
- AC Joint Arthroscopy
This is a minimal invasive surgery performed to remove the loose pieces of the damaged cartilage. The doctor will make couple of incisions in the shoulder and insert an arthroscope, a tiny camera that will help the doctor to view the inside of the shoulder and see the extent of the injury. The doctor will then insert tiny specialized medical instruments to perform the procedure using the arthroscope to guide them.
- AC Joint Osteotomy
This surgical procedure is performed to shave off the osteophytes and reduce the friction between the bones.
- Resection of the Distal Clavicle
This procedure, also called the Distal Clavicle excision, is performed to remove a small portion of the clavicle’s end, preventing the friction between the clavicle and the scapula. The scar tissues will bridge the gap between the bones gradually. This surgery is performed using arthroscopy or keyhole surgery.
This procedure provides relief to patients with moderate to severe AC arthritis.