Ligament tears & damage

The ligaments connect the four bones that make up the shoulder joint, keeping them stable and they are crucial for the optimal function of the shoulder. Any of the ligaments of the shoulder can be torn or damaged, but the most common ligament injury is at the acromioclavicular joint, often known as shoulder separation. Less commonly, the sternoclavicular joint can become sprained as a result of ligament tears.

The acromioclavicular and coracoclavicular ligaments support the acromioclavicular joint, binding the shoulder blade and collarbone tightly together. Typically, a high degree of force must be applied to tear these ligaments and usually it is the result of a fall or trauma common in contact sports, such as football, rugby or skiing. Patients will feel significant pain, particularly during movement of the shoulder joint, and there will be much swelling and tenderness in the affected area.

How will ligament tears and damage be diagnosed?

During your consultation with your London Shoulder Specialists consultant, they will first assess the severity of the ligament damage. The first grade is a partially tear to one of the two ligaments which means the joint is still well supported and tightly joined. A grade two tear is a complete tear in one ligament and a partial tear in the other ligament that has resulted in misalignment of the collarbone. Both ligaments are torn and collarbone separation is obvious in the most severe grade.

Diagnosis will be supported with an X-ray or MRI scan to assess the extent of damage to ligaments and joints and then your consultant can advise you on whether a surgical or non-surgical procedure will be most appropriate.

What are my treatment options for ligament tears and damage?

Non-surgical options include a sling or brace to support the shoulder and reducing the inflammation by the application of ice or anti-inflammatory medication. If symptoms do not improve or the misalignment of the collarbone is severe then a surgical procedure to either repair the ligaments or trim the end of the collarbone may be recommended.

If you have further questions about possible treatment options for shoulder ligament tears and damage, please arrange a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists.