Do I Have Weightlifter’s Shoulder?

weightlifter-shoulder ac joint osteolysis

Weightlifting is a popular sport and workout for many, but it is also a strenuous activity for our musculoskeletal system. Our shoulder joints are specifically prone to injury when lifting heavy loads. Weightlifters shoulder, or AC joint osteolysis, is a gradual injury to the clavicle that can have serious implications if not treated by an orthopedist. Here’s what to look out for

The end of the clavicle meets the acromion bone (the bone at the top of our shoulder) at the AC joint. AC joint osteolysis, or weight lifter’s shoulder, occurs when the end of the clavicle experiences tiny fractures that cause the bone to start deteriorating.

If you’re experiencing the onset of weightlifter’s shoulder, you may feel:

  • Pain upon moving or touching the shoulder
  • Weakness in the arms
  • Pain when arm is crossed over body

AC joint osteolysis usually occurs in weight lifters because of the repetitive stress put on the bones in the shoulder area. When your elbows extend behind your shoulder, the ligaments supporting the AC joint overextend, causing the acromion bone and clavicle to rub against each other. Fractures will result and if your body does not have enough time to heal before the motions are repeated, AC joint osteolysis will develop. This injury is often seen in patients who operate jack hammers or whose work requires heavy lifting as well.

Luckily, if you see an orthopedist early into AC joint osteolysis, it can be treated with physical therapy. A physical therapist can help you alter your weight lifting techniques to take stress off the AC joint, giving the clavicle time to heal. By simply using proper hand placements and exercises, your pain can be relieved and the AC joint will stabilize. A physical therapist will gradually stretch the muscles that have tightened as a result of injury, helping to recover loss of range of motion. Strengthening the surrounding shoulder muscles will give the joint stability, which will prevent further wear and tear of the joint.

If your injury causes you severe pain, your orthopedist can administer a corticosteroid injection to the joint which should relieve inflammation and pain for months while you rest and rehabilitate.

AC joint osteolysis that is left untreated can worsen until arthroscopic shoulder surgery is necessary to trim the damaged portion of the bone. While arthroscopic surgery is highly effective, you will still need a physical therapy program to rehabilitate the joint as well as learn to lift weights without stressing the AC joint.

Dr. Leon Popovitz and Dr. Michael Mizhiritsky, along with their team of best-in-class orthopedic physicians, are known for their exemplary orthopedic surgical skill and best-rated physical medicine and rehabilitation program. This, along with their top in-office physical therapy and long-term sports rehabilitation processes, leads to athletes of all levels returning to their top physical potential. Contact us today to schedule a consult!

Book an appointment

Our Locations