Dr. Michael Michlitsch discusses how a shoulder separation can occur and why it differs from a shoulder dislocation.
A shoulder separation refers to the separation of the end of the clavicle (your collarbone) from the acromion, which is the tip of your shoulder blade on top.
A shoulder dislocation refers to the dislocation of the ball from the socket.
A shoulder separation, called an acromioclavicular or AC separation, occurs because ligaments holding the clavicle in place tear from the shoulder blade. The typical mechanism for this injury is commonly found in sports activities, ranging from a bicyclist falling over the handlebars onto their shoulder, a quarterback or a receiver being tackled onto the top of their shoulder or a wrestler being slammed into the mat onto the shoulder.
Fortunately, most of these injuries stretch, but do not totally tear, the supporting ligaments. A recovery from such an injury may require upwards of a month or more rest before a comfortable return to sports can occur.