The acromioclavicular joint, more commonly known as the AC joint, is the spot between the collarbone and the scapula, also called the shoulder blade, where ligaments and muscles hold the two bone structures together. There is a bony substance that protrudes on the upper part of the scapula and forms the highest point in the shoulder. The AC joint often becomes injured from falls landing on the shoulder, outstretched hands or elbows. Injuries to the AC joint must be treated, according to the American College of Sports Medicine; otherwise, they may heal out of place, causing further complications.
Physical rehabilitation exercises are part of the therapy prescribed for a shoulder injury. These exercises are valuable both for healing and for avoiding injury.
The Athletic Advisor points out that the AC joint serves as a pivot point, providing range of motion for the arms. Rotation exercises should begin shortly after damaging the joint, following directions from your doctor and physical rehabilitation counselor.
To rotate the AC joint, start by lying on the floor or a rehab table and setting your damaged arm at a 90-degree angle to your body with your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Slowly move your hand so that you go from the back of your hand lying on the surface to the palm lying solidly along your side. The motion mimics the workings of a windshield wiper. Repeat 20 times or as long as your therapist recommends.
You need to move your arms in as many different directions as you can to rebuild the ligaments and prevent them from freezing up.
Perform flexing exercises standing up and holding your arm at your side. Stick your thumb out forward and raise your arm as high as you can. Stop before the move becomes too painful. Repeat 20 times or as your therapist recommends. As the joint loosens up, you should be able to move your arm higher each time you try the exercise.
As you recover, you may be tempted to take on more exercises, but keep in mind that pain is an indicator that the ligaments are not yet ready to move that much. Instead, take a slow approach to your recovery and follow the instructions of your physical therapist and doctor.
A common exercise that moves the AC joint is the shoulder squeeze, providing it doesn't cause you additional pain. Stand or sit erect and tuck your chin in toward your chest. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle and push your shoulders back slightly. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as far as you can and hold for a couple seconds. Repeat 10 times, three times a day to loosen up the joints.
Strengthening exercises are important to prevent injuries to the AC joint. You can use resistance bands to work the muscles attached to the shoulders. To perform outward rotations, hold a band at both ends and place your arms by your sides at a 90-degree angle. Pull the band apart as far as you can. Hold for a couple seconds and release. If you are recovering from an injury, you may only be able to rotate your arms two or three inches, but should improve as you gain strength. Repeat the movement 10 to 15 times.
Prevent further injury by stretching before you do any exercises, lift weights or play sports that could damage your AC joint. Start by raising your arms above your head and grabbing your right wrist with your left hand. Bend slowly to the left and hold for count of 10. Slowly return and repeat three times. Switch hands and repeat on the other side. Add more stretching by grabbing your hands behind your back and lightly pulling to stretch the shoulder muscles. Don't bounce when you stretch, instead, give a gentle tug, hold and release.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.