Did you know that tradies make up 60% of the serious injury claims in Australia?
With the amount of heavy lifting and potential hazards on the job, it’s no wonder that injuries are a common occurrence—but they shouldn’t have to be.
One of the forms of injury we see from tradies at SPC are acromioclavicular joint injuries (AC joint injuries), along with other forms of shoulder injury and pain, knee injury and lower back injury issues.
If you’ve noticed an increase in body pain as a result of work as a tradesperson, or have suffered a workplace injury, you don’t have to suffer alone. There are numerous different treatment options out there that can address workplace injuries, and help you feel happy and healthy once more.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the most common tradie injuries – AC joint injuries. Let’s explore what can cause this form of joint sprain, how to prevent it from happening, and the different physical therapy options you can explore if you have hurt your acromioclavicular joint.
What is an AC Joint Injury?
An AC joint injury, also referred to as an acromioclavicular joint injury, refers to pain and damage done to the acromioclavicular joint and/or surrounding tissues around the AC ligament. This is a joint in the body where a person’s clavicle/collar bone meets the shoulder bone called the scapula.
An AC joint injury can fall on a scale that covers anything from an acromioclavicular ligament tear or sprain to a full joint dislocation or a breaking of the AC joint capsule. The severity of the AC joint injury will depend on how the condition was caused, and other outside factors that can impact a person’s shoulder conditions.
What Can Cause AC Joint Injury?
An AC joint injury is usually a result of a traumatic injury or event to the shoulder. This could be something like falling and landing on the shoulder joint, repeated motions that cause shoulder instability. However, in some cases, it can be caused by a degenerative condition like osteoarthritis, or conditions like arthritis in the shoulder joint.
For tradies, the most common cause of AC injury is repeated ‘wear and tear’ on the AC joint and surrounding ligaments. This is usually due to repetitive motions that engage the shoulder blade and AC joint, like repeated heavy lifting on the job.
Identifying and Diagnosing an AC Joint Injury
Those who have suffered from any kind of AC joint sprain or severe injury will notice the following symptoms:
- Shoulder pain, specifically at the top of the shoulder
- Swelling or bruising around the shoulder joint
- Shoulder pain while heavy lifting or moving your arm(s)
- Large bump or mass at the top of the shoulder.
At our clinic, we approach diagnosing an AC injury with a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray of the shoulder blade area will also be performed.
The physical examination is done to assess overall mobility in the affected area, and an assessment of joint pain. The x-ray helps further, allowing us to confirm the extent of the shoulder injury.
Different Treatment Options
The most commonly used treatment option for those with AC joint injuries involves some form of physical therapy from an accredited physical therapist.
Depending on the extent of your injuries, this process may begin with some form of immobilisation such as a brace or sling to reduce pain and allow injuries to heal. Once healed enough physical therapy is performed to build back shoulder strength and give patients a greater range of shoulder motion.
Physical therapy exercises are great for building up strength in injured ligaments to reduce pain. These exercises can also do wonders to reduce a patient’s chance of re-injuring the shoulder, and use their body more safely in the future.
Tips for Preventing Workplace Injuries
What can tradies do to avoid dealing with these kinds of injuries?
If you have had a previous AC joint injury, the most important thing to focus on is building strength, and preventing re-injury. You should focus on:
- Continuing prescribed physical therapy exercises to build strength
- Wear assistive devices, like a brace or padding, if needed for sports/work
- Before performing physical labour, stretch the shoulder/body and warm up properly
- Incorporate exercises that increase arm/shoulder strength and flexibility
- Always follow proper, safe lifting techniques in the workplace.
Posture and Movement Patterns to Avoid
Following safe and proper movement techniques in the workplace is essential for avoiding injuries like an AC joint injury. There are some typical movements and postures tradies perform daily that can contribute to these issues.
If you work as a tradie, try to become more aware of, and resist doing these non-optimal movements:
When lifting heavy objects, try to avoid movements where you have to lift overhead. Utilise steps and jacks to minimise repeatedly lifting your arms above the head. In general, always try to keep all the work you do at waist height.
It’s also important to always lift with the legs and core to avoid unnecessary arm or shoulder strain. Keep a wide stance when lifting to keep yourself firmly planted.
If digging with a shovel, try to avoid repeatedly twisting or dumping debris in the same location. Repeated movements can lead to muscle injuries and strain.
Remember, when turning, always do so with your feet, not with the waist. This will minimise twisting body movements that lead to strain.
When Using Power Tools:
The high levels of vibration from power tools like drills or jackhammers can lead to injury. Safety equipment like anti-vibration gloves can help. You can also establish a system to reduce repeated use of gear, like cycling tasks across multiple team members.
When Carrying Gear:
It’s important to keep things light when it comes to the gear you use on a site. When wearing a toolbelt, try to keep weight evenly distributed to avoid unnecessary strain on the upper body. If objects are heavy but have to be carried, try to move them with some kind of tool/vehicle, or ask a fellow coworker for help to minimise the weight carried.
Getting Help from Sydney Pelvic Clinic
proper treatment! At Sydney Pelvic Clinic, our team is ready to assess and diagnose injuries, and come up with a treatment plan custom to you.
If you’d like to learn more, click here to reach out for a consultation.