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  1. #1
    Registered User markprice1's Avatar
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    AC Joint Injury Keeping Me Down Past 2 Years ... HELP

    Hey all. So, the past 2 years have sucked to say the least. Looking for ANY advice that may help with this injury I've been faced with that has practically ruined my life. Here's my timeline.

    April 2015 - While doing seated incline machine chest press, sudden stabbing pain in left AC joint with every rep. Intense pain on every rep which came out of nowhere. No shoulder problems whatsoever up to this point. Barely finished the workout. Took it easy the next few weeks thinking it was nothing serious. Pain didn't subside. Could barely sleep on affected side. Any presses, flys, or dips were excruciating ... even attempting a pull-up was nearly impossible.

    May 2015 - Had an MRI which showed severe AC hypertrophy and intense inflammation at the joint. Continued to lift and push through the pain, and I mean it was taking everything in me to do chest. Icing on the reg which wasn't helping much (but God forbid I stop lifting weights for a few weeks, right?) Pain still strictly isolated to AC joint.

    January 2016 - Shoulder is starting to feel abnormal. Feels like it's hanging down out of the socket. Visibly lower than healthy shoulder. Feeling asymmetrical compared to healthy side. Still pain at AC joint. Finally see an orthopedist. Takes X-Rays, tells me I have distal clavicle osteolysis (weight-lifters shoulder). Sticks me with cortisone and sends me on my way. Cortisone feels good initially from the lidocaine but next chest workout feels just as bad as always.

    April 2016 - See a second orthopedist. Tells me I have slight winging of my left scapula. Superior/medial border juts out, never noticed until he pointed it out. Sends me to physical therapy.

    May 2016 - A month of PT mainly focusing on rhomboid work, down and back squeezing. Slight serratus and trap work. Didn't help at all, scapula still winging.

    June 2016 - Back to second orthopedist who gives me another cortisone shot. I mention the possibility of nerve related issues. He sends me for an EMG.

    July 2016 - EMG comes back clean for entire left side of body. Orthopedist calls and tells me there's nothing more he can do for me (yeah, that's not a joke.)

    August 2016 - January 2017 - Basically hopeless. Arm feeling more and more abnormal by the day. Shoulder appears rolled forward very noticeably, with every single exercise feeling abnormal, as if I'm using two completely different arms, no matter how hard I try to make them pull/push to feel the same. If I do presses or flys, on the negative my left shoulder feels like it drops much further down or back, as if something isn't connected in my shoulder which holds it in place. Prominent bump on top of AC joint which has gotten progressively worse. By now, I've begun to have horrible searing/burning pain in my left upper back when I start to get mobile during the day at random times of the day. Thinking it comes from my levator scapula muscle, because when I stretch my neck down it lights up like crazy.

    February 2017 - Saw a sports therapist who told me my left scapula is downwardly rotated, and protracted forward away from my spine. Left upper/middle trap is stretched and elongated A LOT compared to the healthy right side (this is clearly visible). Therapist told me to work traps. Started working traps but its hard to work a muscle group when you don't feel like you're doing the right movements at all or the same movements as your healthy side. By now, believe it or not, pain in AC joint has subsided A LOT. The kicker is I can do dumbbell presses and flys just fine, but only because I'm pushing at what feels like a completely different angle. If I hold my arm a certain way (pulling it in) the pain returns immediately to AC joint but if I press the way my body naturally wants to then I get no pain there.

    April 2017 - Saw 3rd orthopedist. Took new X-Rays. Told me there isn't much osteolysis, but the space in my AC joint looks big, bigger than it should be. I get a LOT of movement in that joint. Feels very abnormal. Tons of grinding and if I move my shoulder around my AC joint pops into many different spaces. My collarbone also moves around a lot at the AC joint if I pull it outward. Orthopedist sent me to a shoulder specialist for more therapy.

    May 2017 - Been in therapy for a month now with a great therapist. Therapist brought to light that I have very hypermobile joints. Tons of movement in both my shoulders, elbows, etc. I can now control the winging but only if I consciously do so. Otherwise, if I naturally reach in front of me for something the superior edge flies out and my shoulder feels abnormal and unstable. Even if I tuck it and try to do something like a push-up it just feels wrong. And when I tuck it my AC joint feels like it 'opens up' and literally feels like it's not connected, or at least not connected tightly.


    Main theory I have: 2 years ago, I sprained my AC joint. Never let it heal and continued to lift on it which continued to stretch it more and more. Started to use my shoulder differently to take the pain away from my AC joint, which caused me to developed muscle imbalances which led to the winging of the scapula and scapular dyskinesis. Now even if I strengthen my scapula stabilizers till the cows come home, my AC joint is still completely shot and will need to be repaired for my shoulder to even feel normal again and to be able to strengthen my muscles properly. Could my AC joint be severely stretched or separated and just never have healed properly? Is my entire shoulder capsule stretched? How could a separated AC joint affect the scapula? ANY advice is extremely appreciated. Thanks guys.
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  2. #2
    Registered User hazelmist8's Avatar
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    AC Joint Injury

    Hello, I know this post is old but I wanted to provide some personal info about my AC injury and what I did to almost fully rehabilitate it. Please note I am not a doctor or physical therapist, and that this is based on my own experience.

    While I was weight lifting 3 years ago I caused a type 2 AC joint seperation. From then on, my shoulder was never the same. Everytime I raised my arm it was cause shooting pain and would crackle and pop. My doctor prescribed me physical therapy in Hope's that I could fix it. I did all of the exercises, and the pain actually got increasingly worse. I did every scapular exercise you can imagine, and the pain progressed to a point where my neck and upper back started to hurt. I think the injury was causing my posture to suffer. I was depressed, I couldn't do pushups, dips, bench presses, and overhead presses. I gave up lifting for a year and my pain started to go away. I realized that any exercises that worked my ac joint would always cause me pain in the end, no matter how much I tried to build up the surrounding muscle. So, i decided to create my own regime that builds strength as well as improves my posture and stabilizer muscles. Believe it or not, this program has resulted in me becoming pain free as long as I dont do dips, overhead presses, bench pressing, and pushups. I understand this program isn't ideal, but it helps me get the pump and gains I need so I'm not depressed. Here it is:

    Row 3s 20 reps
    Leg curl 3s 20 reps
    Leg extensions 3s 20 reps
    Calf raises 3s 20 reps
    Farmers walk 2 sets 45 seconds
    Chest press (half rom) 3 sets 20 reps
    Bicep curl 3 sets 20 reps
    skull crushers 2 sets 20 reps
    Tricep pushdown 1 sets 20 reps
    Crunches 3 sets

    This program is structured in such a way that you can still have shoulder and trap development without injuring your AC joint. Also dont comment hounding me over lack of compound movements. Most compound movements utilize the ac joint. I understand the rep range isn't ideal, but just be patient and focus on every rep in a slow and controlled manner. Progressive overload is the key principle in this routine. You may also be questioning why there is a lack of chest exercises. I did this on purpose because chest exercises put a lot of strain on your joints and can contribute to rounded shoulders if you already have weak stabilizer muscles. I hope that someone finds this useful.
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