Distal Clavicle Osteolysis

Mainly found in weight lifters, distal clavicle osteolysis can also affect other athletes. This type of injury occurs at the end of the collarbone where it joins with the shoulder blade. 

When distal clavicle osteolysis occurs, you will need the right treatment option. Dr. John Andrachuk specializes in treating all types of sports injuries including distal clavicle osteolysis. Whether the injury was caused by weight lifting or a sports injury, you need the best Orthopedic Sports Medicine surgeon in Atlanta for your treatment.

What is Distal Clavicle Osteolysis?

Also known as weight lifter’s shoulder, distal clavicle osteolysis is a shoulder injury. It affects the acromioclavicular or AC joint. Distal clavicle osteolysis is most common in contact sports, such as football or rugby.

When higher stress is put on the collar bone or clavicle, it may cause distal clavicle osteolysis. However, there is no exact known cause of this injury. 

What Causes Distal Clavicle Osteolysis?

The causes of distal clavicle osteolysis are unknown. However, the injury happens when the AC joint is put under extreme stress. It’s common in weight lifters because of the stress put on the AC joint during workouts.

The word osteolysis means erosion or dissolving of the bone. When the AC joint is overused, clavicle deterioration starts to happen. It’s a bit like a chronic stress fracture found at the end of the clavicle. 

Distal Clavicle Osteolysis Symptoms

Commonly, weight lifters or athletes will begin to experience pain on the front of the shoulder. The pain will likely be worse when lifting weights or performing high-stress activities. 

Aching pain is rather common with distal clavicle osteolysis, especially during repetitive activity. Sharp pain may become common during some activities and may result in a deep ache for 24 hours after.

Diagnosing Distal Clavicle Osteolysis

Your sports medicine doctor will likely begin the diagnosis with a physical examination. By performing a few exercises, your doctor will be able to determine where the pay is and whether it could be distal clavicle osteolysis. 

Your doctor will address the stability of your AC Joint and may also evaluate your shoulder joint. Along with a physical exam, your doctor may order specific tests including a CT scan and blood tests.

An AC injection test can be done under the guidance of a CT scan to help relieve the pain. A steroid will be injected and the test will help to confirm the diagnosis of your AC joint pain.

Blood tests may be ordered, if your doctor believes you may have an infection or if the inflammatory process is ongoing. It’s not common to be diagnosed with an infected AC joint, but your doctor may order blood tests if you have a fever or a hot, tender joint. 

It’s also possible your doctor will order other blood tests to rule out other inflammatory processes, such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

When diagnosing distal clavicle osteolysis your doctor may use X-rays of your shoulder after the physical exam. An X-ray may show abnormal bone mineralization or poor bone density. An MRI scan may also be used. 

Distal Clavicle Osteolysis Treatment

The conservative treatment option for distal clavicle osteolysis is rest and restriction of motion. Ice can also be used to help lessen the swelling. If severe pain is present, the shoulder may need to be held in a sling to keep it in a fixed position.

Doctors will often prescribe rest, ice, and medication to help with the inflammation and pain. NSAIDs are commonly used to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain when treating distal clavicle osteolysis. 

Another treatment option is physical therapy. If the shoulder had healed enough and the inflammation is gone, physical therapy can be used to help restore range of motion and strength. 

Distal Clavicle Osteolysis Surgery

While it’s not often the first choice or even necessary in most cases, distal clavicle osteolysis surgery may be used to provide relief. When more conservative treatments haven’t worked, a surgery known as the Mumford procedure may be used. 

This common surgery will help to correct the underlying conditions causing distal clavicle osteolysis. It can be performed arthroscopically or through a small incision. 

Surgery for distal clavicle osteolysis usually results in the relief of pain and the ability to resume normal activities with full function. Recovery will take about three months. 

Can I Prevent Distal Clavicle Osteolysis?

Without eliminating weight lifting exercises, such as bench pressing, it’s hard to prevent distal clavicle osteolysis. Modifications can be used to help ease the stress on the collarbone and joint, however. 

For example, narrowing your hand position on the bar during the bench press exercise will help lower the stress on your collarbone and AC joint. It can also help to place towels on your chest and avoid lowering the bar to your chest. Keep it a few inches off your chest for a safer bench press exercise.

After suffering from distal clavicle osteolysis make sure to get any weight lifting activities cleared with your doctor. Some exercises may need to be avoided for a few months and modifications can be used to avoid future trauma.

Schedule an Appointment Today!

Dr. Andrachuk offers many years of experience in treating all types of shoulder injuries including distal clavicle osteolysis. If you’ve noticed pain around your AC joint or you’ve experienced a recent trauma, you need to seek medical help. Dr. Andrachuk provides conservative treatments, along with minimally invasive techniques to relieve your shoulder pain. Contact us today and schedule your in-person or telemedicine appointment!