Hey thanks for the offer, I appreciate all the help and encouragement I can get! What year are you right now?
I suspected misdiagnosis originally, but my situation is kind of muddy because I've already gotten a second opinion. I originally injured the joint by being pushed to bottom by a wave and hitting my shoulder. My experience is slightly atypical because at the time I didn't experience any pain in my AC joint (if I did, it wasn't enough that I remember), just mild pain on the lateral edge of my shoulder where I hit along the lines of a pretty minor bruise/sore spot. The soreness was gone in around 2 days, but my shoulder just "felt off" somehow. It sounds kind of silly, but at the time I was more worried about having damaged my posterior deltoid attachment where I hit and did a quick google search as I had never heard of this happening from a minor trauma before.
This lead to me reading about AC joint sprains and realizing my distal clavicle had some swelling over it and was more prominent than I remembered. What ensued was me spending hundreds of hours over the next 7-8 months reading pretty much every case study, forum post, website, and orthopedic textbook I could get my hands on about AC joint sprains and shoulders in general.
Originally, I went to the orthopedics department at the hospital I work at about 5 days after my fall and they took AP bilateral X-rays but I was too wide to fit so they had to take a separate X-ray of each shoulder. We reviewed these on the computer, and the Doctor (who at the time I believed was an orthopedist but I later found out was a PA that just transferred from family medicine) did a physical exam and noted I had no pain or range of motion loss. As such, she said my shoulder wasn't injured but I insisted that she do a bilateral weighted view just to make sure. Again, she noted no difference and said I may have just had a mild sprain and to take two weeks off from the gym if I thought it was necessary. I was less than convinced because she didn't even take my shirt off to look at my shoulder. The radiology report came back stating that both AC joints were at the upper limit of normal joint width.
So the next week I scheduled an appointment with a reputed orthopedist that I found online. He reviewed my x-rays and did a slightly more thorough examination, but ultimately agreed with the first doctor stating that I had a class I sprain and the clicking or visual change I saw was probably caused by inflammation, give it time to go down, and I was free to do any weightlifting except overhead work.
I called back a few weeks later with the same symptoms and spoke to the PA on the phone who said he was surprised I wasn't fully back into working out as I barely had a class I sprain. I requested an MRI, which indicated a slight increase in signal intensity in the AC joint and no other shoulder problems. Again, the orthopedist told me to give it more time as it was still early in the recovery process and continue with the band rehab exercises I had been doing, and not hesitate from lifting as long as I had no pain.
So at this point I returned to lifting as fully as possibly, avoiding any exercise that caused clicking. It's been 8 months since the injury. I actually spent quite a bit of time learning to read the x-rays and MRI's which was an interesting task in itself.
I have found other examples of class I diagnoses online with a slight bump and no pain, but these seem to be far and few between. The most logical explanation I can come up with is that the grading of injuries represents a range of tissue damage that can be difficult to cleanly classify into a textbook category so I may have some symptoms of one classification and some of another depending on the quality being assessed.
I agree completely with what you're saying though, better to start off more conservative than risk wasting money or possibly making a minor situation worse by getting injections into my shoulder. At this point I can still compete in strongman at a high level, so I can live with that. It would just be nice to have my shoulder back to what it once was.
Hopefully it doesn't sound as if I'm just getting sucked into a well written prolotherapy advertisement as I've spent a pretty substantial amount of time researching all of this haha. It's interesting that you mention I would need to tape or sling the affected side to achieve full reduction. While reading it seems quite a few historical texts as well as more contact sports oriented physical therapists and trainers recommend taping the joint to reduce it while the scar tissue heals for a better outcome. However, most orthopedists today seem to either not recommend this or deny it will have any impact.
The most dramatic example of the effects of taping I have ever seen are visible in this thread:
The guy has a full blown class 5 separation, tapes it beginning on the first day, and after a few weeks you can't even tell his shoulder was ever separated. I can definitely understand the inconvenience of taping your shoulder for weeks on end, but I still wish I would have known about this sooner. Maybe someone will read this and it will help them.
Anyways, sorry for the excruciatingly long response. It's just nice to have someone open minded and interested in this kind of stuff to bounce my thoughts and ideas off of. Thanks for the help!