When we experience acromioclavicular joint pain, we truly know what damage, swelling, or bone changes around the rotator cuff area. It can cause pain. You might have noticed this pain when you raise your arm above your head, for instance, or you raise your arm to point at something or you want to fasten something at your back.

When the rotator cuffs become damaged or inflamed, this is usually the most common cause of shoulder pain. Your doctor might mention this condition as rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis. Acromioclavicular joint pain causes could be a result of a dislocated shoulder.

What Is Acromioclavicular Joint Pain?

Not all people will be able to tell you what the acromioclavicular joint is or what acromioclavicular joint pain causes are, where the joint is situated, and what it does! This joint is located at the top of your shoulders, where two bones meet, and the joint where they meet is called the acromioclavicular joint – perhaps you have heard people talk of the ACJ pain – that’s another name for it. The two bones that meet are called the collar bone, also called the clavicle. The other is the shoulder blade or acromion.

When the acromioclavicular joint injury between the two bones becomes inflamed, the pain can be pretty intense and even feel tender when you touch it. The pain is sufficient enough that it can interfere with your normal activities during the day, limiting your ability to play some sports or go to the gym and even affecting the way you sleep!

What Causes Acromioclavicular Joint Pain?

There is research that suggests that lots of people develop acromioclavicular osteoarthritis as they age. Severe injury and also surgery can do damage to the acromioclavicular joint. This can eventually lead to acromioclavicular osteoarthritis, even though AC joint pain symptoms might not be evident for months or even years later.

Acromioclavicular joint injury

Acromioclavicular joint injury is another cause. People who spend a lot of time lifting objects, whether at home or on the sports field can experience “mini-traumas” in their shoulder joints. They are more likely to develop acromioclavicular osteoarthritis.

A congenital defect or illness[1] could be a factor. If you have poor bone alignment, this could increase shoulder separation risks and increase the likelihood of you developing osteoarthritis of the shoulder.

Sometimes it just happens from the normal wear and tear. Sometimes, it occurs from people who have suffered from a fall, like falling off a bicycle, or you have taken a fall from skiing.

If you go to the doctor, he will say you have AC joint pain symptoms, such as sprains or dislocation. There has been a separation between the bones of the clavicle and the bones of the acromion. You have swelling or burning in your shoulder area.

Other acromioclavicular joint pain causes can be bone spurs in the shoulder area, frozen shoulder, shoulder separation, tears of the rotator cuff tendons, and poor shoulder posture. Ouch!

Warning Signs Of Acromioclavicular Joint Pain

There are a number of symptoms that could be warning signs of acromioclavicular joint injury and pain. It might start off as mild in the beginning but can get worse as the inflammation gets worse. Let’s look at some warning signs:

  • You feel pain even while resting or during activity
  • Your arm feels stiff when you raise the arm
  • Stiffness when lifting your arm
  • Playing sports requiring overhead actions becomes difficult
  • You have a loss of strength and range of motion
  • Night pain
  • You are noticing tenderness and even swelling

What Are AC Joint Pain Symptoms?

  • You are walking around very aware of the pain in your shoulder, plus there is swelling and tenderness over the joint. The spot where the scapula and clavicle meet may feel tender and painful. Sometimes, it can be just from getting older.
  • You feel as if you have lost strength in the shoulder area because you have difficulty carrying things or leaning over to pick things up – you feel radiating pain shoot through your shoulder area.

  • There might be a visible bump over your shoulder area.
  • You experience pain when you lie down and sleep on the affected side. When shoulder pain starts affecting people’s sleep, they decide to go and see the doctor.
  • Arthritis pain that originates at the AC joint[2] can radiate into the rest of the shoulder – even the base of the neck or arm. If the pain radiates to the base of the neck, this can cause headaches and dizziness.
  • You might be aware that you have not had plenty of activities, and now you feel stiff joint. Sometimes, when you do have bouts of activity, it feels a bit better. You experience discomfort doing your daily chores that stress the AC joint.
  • You feel or hear a “popping” or your shoulder clicking with movement, which is known as crepitus.

Acromioclavicular Joint Pain Treatment

Acromioclavicular Joint Pain Treatment
One acromioclavicular joint pain treatment is to try and lessen the activities that cause the pain and inflammation to make it better.

Another way to treat arthritis of the AC joint is to apply ice or heat pads[3]. These help to decrease acromioclavicular joint injury, pain, and inflammation. For instance, if you are using ice, the more the joint hurts, the more ice you should use. Apply it for around 20 to 30 minutes directly to the joint either by using an ice bag. Or you can massage the joint with the ice cubes.

Then some medications typically help to decrease the inflammation. They are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Another treatment, if the above solutions don’t work, is to consider surgery. This surgery will require the removal of the portion of the end of the collarbone. It is not a huge op and the patient usually goes home wearing an arm sling. Patients are known to get excellent pain relief with this op, where about 95% even return to their pre-injury sports and activities.

Then there are home remedies that you can try for AC joint pain symptoms. These will be about stretching the muscles that encompass the shoulder joint.

What about a salt bath? Or massage treatment? These all help towards acromioclavicular joint pain causes.

Here is some natural acromioclavicular joint pain treatment for inflammation:

To deal with acromioclavicular joint pain causes, of which inflammation is one, it is crucial what you eat. Here are some wonderful foods that naturally reduce inflammation in the body:

  • Olive oil
  • Fatty fish – these are sardines, salmon, mackerel, and tuna
  • Tomatoes
  • Fruits such as cherries, oranges, blueberries, and strawberries
  • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
  • Eating plenty of green veggies or juicing them
  • Healthy herbs and spices such as cayenne, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon

Essential oil for acromioclavicular joint pain treatment relieves tension, pain, and swelling:

Essential oils come from therapeutic plants. These have natural anti-inflammatory, as well as benefit AC joint pain symptoms. More common ones are:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Marjoram oil
  • Lavender oil

Pain and swelling

Frequently Asked Questions

The acromioclavicular joint is a multiaxial joint[4].

Sometimes, there are no specific causes as to why the acromioclavicular joint becomes painful. It could also become painful even when there has been no injury to it. It can just happen as a result of wear and tear [5].

The AC joint is situated where two bones meet. One is the collarbone, and the second bone is part of the shoulder blade – the scapula, which is the big bone behind the shoulder that also forms part of the shoulder joint.

These are the best AC joint exercises [6] you may participate in.

It will depend on how serious your injury is. But it can heal, sometimes in about two or three weeks. If you have a severe case of acromioclavicular joint injury, your doctor might suggest that surgery is your only option.


There is no doubt that putting up with life with acromioclavicular joint pain can be debilitating. But it’s not all bad news because most shoulder pain goes away on its own. This is because a lot of should pain can be traced back to muscle pain which results from ligament damage.

We have given you many options for dealing with your acromioclavicular joint pain. Some are natural treatments that you can apply at home.

If your AC joint pain is causing you much pain and trouble, your doctor might suggest surgery. Between you and your doctor, you can make a joint effort toward acromioclavicular joint pain treatment – it can be fixed!