What is AC joint arthritis?

Fact Checked

AC joint arthritis or acromioclavicular arthritis is a condition that affects the acromioclavicular joint in the shoulder. The condition can be instigated by osteoarthritis, post-traumatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. AC joint arthritis tends to be quite common among those with advancing age but rheumatoid arthritis can also cause the condition at any age.


Osteoarthritis is basically a painful condition affecting the joints that is quite common among those with advancing age. The distinctive symptoms of the condition include reduced joint space or narrowing of the joint space, extra bone growth, cysts and subchondral sclerosis. Individuals who engage in overhead tasks such as weightlifting or construction face a higher risk for developing osteoarthritis of the AC joint. Proper management of the symptoms can be carried effectively if you will register for first aid training today.

AC joint arthritis
When it comes to post-traumatic arthritis, it is a sub-type of osteoarthritis that develops after a fracture, separation of a joint or a fracture.

Post-traumatic arthritis

When it comes to post-traumatic arthritis, it is a sub-type of osteoarthritis that develops after a fracture, separation of a joint or a fracture. With emphasis on the AC joint, chronic AC joint separation can eventually lead to post-traumatic AC joint arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is best described as an autoimmune condition in which the body triggers an autoimmune response to the synovial tissue of the joint. The condition can affect almost any joint in the body and typically affect individuals of all ages. The AC joint can also be affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the symptoms of AC joint arthritis?

The indications of AC joint arthritis do not always connect well with the results of an X-ray. The osteophytes can be evident at the clavicular part of the joint which can associate better with the symptoms. The pain is related to activities that involve overhead movement as well as moving the arm toward the middle of the body.

Diagnosing the condition

The doctor will perform physical examination of the shoulder. In most cases, there is swelling at the AC joint. The doctor will perform a cross-arm test in which the individual attempts to touch the other shoulder using the affected arm if pain is produced. Take note that these findings can also be present in other conditions that affect the AC joint and shoulder.

MRI and X-ray are also requested to assess further the AC joint. The X-ray can reveal arthritis changes but these changes may or may not correlate with the actual level of pain the individual feels. An MRI can show the joint swelling that might correlate with the AC joint symptoms.

Treatment for AC joint arthritis

The non-surgical treatment for AC joint arthritis includes rest, application of ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and activity modification. In some cases, a steroid can be injected into the AC joint.

The surgical treatment is the solution if the non-surgical treatment options could not relieve the symptoms. The surgery involves resection of the clavicular region of the AC joint to increase the joint space and minimize the symptoms. As for the bony growths, they are removed while the ligaments that support the AC joint are repaired.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional

  • All firstaidcprmississauga.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.