A separated shoulder is an injury to the ligaments that hold your collarbone (clavicle) to your shoulder blade. In a mild separated shoulder, the ligaments might just be stretched. In severe injuries, ligaments might be torn.
In most people, a separated shoulder doesn't usually require surgery. Instead, conservative treatment — such as rest, ice and pain relievers — is often enough to relieve the pain. Most people regain full shoulder function within a few weeks after having a separated shoulder.
Signs and symptoms of a separated shoulder might include:
Contact your doctor if you have persistent tenderness or pain near the end of your collarbone.
The most common cause of a separated shoulder is a blow to the point of your shoulder or a fall directly on your shoulder. The injury may stretch or tear the ligaments that hold your collarbone to your shoulder blade.
Participating in contact sports, such as football and hockey, or in sports that can involve falls — such as downhill skiing, gymnastics and volleyball — might put you at higher risk of a separated shoulder.
Most people fully recover from a separated shoulder with conservative treatment. Continued shoulder pain is possible, however, if:
A separated shoulder can usually be identified during a physical exam. X-rays can sometimes confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the injury. But in many people who have a low-grade separated shoulder, early X-rays are often normal.
Most people enjoy a full recovery after conservative treatment. A minor separation usually heals within a few weeks. A more severe separation might take several weeks to months to heal. You might always have a noticeable bump on the affected shoulder, but it shouldn't affect your ability to use that shoulder.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), may help ease shoulder pain.
If pain persists or if you have a severe separation or fracture of the clavicle, surgery might be an option. Surgery can reconnect torn ligaments and reposition or stabilize injured bones.
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, if your separated shoulder is severe, you might be referred to a doctor who specializes in bones and joints.
Here's information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Make a list of:
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For a separated shoulder, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as:
© 1998-2021 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.