Conservative management of a type III acromioclavicular separation: a case report and 10-year follow-up

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The purpose of this study is to present a 10-year prospective case of a right incomplete type III acromioclavicular (AC) separation in a 26-year-old patient.

Clinical Features:

A 26-year-old male patient fell directly on his right shoulder with the arm in an outstretched and overhead position. Pain and swelling were immediate and were associated with a “step deformity.” The patient had limited right shoulder range of motion (ROM), strength, and function. Radiographic findings confirmed a type III AC separation on the right. At 1-year follow-up, the patient did not report any deficits in ROM or function, but did note a prominent distal clavicle on the right. At 3-, 5-, 7-, and 10-year follow-up, the patient did not report changes from 1 year. The radiographic findings at the 10-year follow-up indicated mild degenerative joint disease in both AC joints and mild elevation of the distal clavicle on the right.

Intervention and Outcome:

The patient received chiropractic care to control for pain, swelling, and loss of ROM. The patient received acupuncture, joint mobilizations, palliative adhesive taping of the AC joint, Active Release Technique, and progressive resisted exercises. Radiographic study was done at the time of the injury and at 10 years to observe for any osseous changes in the AC joint.


The patient yielded excellent results from conservative chiropractic management that was reflected in a prompt return to work 19 days after the injury. Follow-up at 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10 years exhibited absence of residual deficits in ROM and function. The “step deformity” was still present after the injury on the right.

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