Osteoarthritis of the acromioclavicular joint is not uncommon. It may be caused by a prior trauma (secondary osteoarthritis) or occur as a chronic degenerative disorder and may result in debilitating AC joint pain and/or painful irritation of the rotator cuff from bone spurs that develop as a result of the osteoarthritis and impingent onto the underlying rotator cuff.
Conservative treatment using physical therapy or guided injections into the AC joint should be considered and can certainly be successful. Surgical treatment should be considered in cases of severe arthritis and if conservative treatment fails to provide improvement. Excision of the end of the clavicle is a frequent and minimally invasive surgical procedure that can be performed arthroscopically and removes approximately 1 cm of the end of the clavicle bone including the damaged joint surface and bone spurs. After the initial wound pain resolves, this procedure can relatively quickly result in noticeable pain reduction and associated improvement of shoulder function and activities. Recovery is usually guided by your surgeon in combination with an experienced physical therapist.