What Is a Dislocation?
dislocation occurs when a bone slips out of a joint. For example, the top of
your arm bone fits into a joint at your shoulder. When it slips or pops out of
that joint, you have a dislocated shoulder. You can dislocate almost any joint in
your body, including your knee, hip, ankle, or shoulder.
a dislocation means your bone is no longer where it should be, you should treat
it as an emergency and seek medical attention as soon as possible. An untreated
dislocation could cause damage to your ligaments, nerves, or blood vessels.
What Causes a Dislocation?
typically result when a joint experiences an unexpected or unbalanced impact.
This might happen if you fall or experience a harsh hit to the affected area. After
a joint dislocates, it’s more likely to dislocate again in the future.
Who Is at Risk for a Dislocation?
can dislocate a joint if they fall or experience some other type of trauma.
However, older persons tend to have a higher risk, especially if they lack
mobility or are less able to prevent falls.
can also be at a greater risk for dislocations if they are unsupervised or play
in an area that hasn’t been childproofed. Those who practice unsafe behavior
during physical activities put themselves at higher risk for accidents such as
What Are the Symptoms of a
most scenarios, you’ll easily be able to see a dislocation. The area may be
swollen or look bruised. You may notice that the area is red or discolored. It
may also have a strange shape or be deformed as a result of the dislocation.
of the other symptoms associated with dislocated joints include:
- loss of motion
- pain during movement
- numbness around the area
- tingling feeling
How Is a Dislocation
may be difficult to determine whether your bone is broken or a dislocation has
occurred. You should go to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
doctor will examine the affected area. He will be checking circulation to the
area, deformity, and whether the skin is broken. If your doctor believes that
you have a broken bone or a dislocation, he will order an X-ray. On occasion,
special imaging such as an MRI may be required. These imaging tools will enable
your doctor to see exactly what’s going on in the joint or bone involved.
How Is a Dislocation
doctor’s choice of treatment will depend on which joint you dislocated. It may
also depend on the severity of your dislocation. According to Johns Hopkins
University, initial treatment for any dislocation involves RICE: Rest, Ice,
Compression, and Elevation. In some cases, the dislocated joint might go back
into place naturally after this treatment.
the joint doesn’t return to normal naturally, your doctor may use one of the
- manipulation or repositioning
this method, your doctor will manipulate or reposition the joint back into
place. You’ll be given a sedative or anesthetic to remain comfortable and also
to allow the muscles near your joint to relax, which eases the procedure.
your joint returns to its proper place, your doctor may ask you to wear a sling,
splint, or cast for several weeks. This will prevent the joint from moving and
allow the area to fully heal. The length of time your joint needs to be immobile
will vary, depending on the joint and severity of the injury.
of your pain should go away after the joint returns to its proper place.
However, your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever or a muscle relaxant if you’re
still feeling pain.
will need surgery only if the dislocation damaged your nerves or blood vessels,
or if your doctor is unable to return your bones to their normal position.
Surgery may also be necessary for those who often dislocate the same joints,
such as their shoulders. To prevent redislocation, it may be necessary to
reconstruct the joint and repair any damaged structures. On occasion, a joint
has to be replaced, such as a hip replacement.
begins after your doctor properly repositions or manipulates the joint into the
correct position and removes the sling or splint (if you needed one). You and
your doctor will devise a rehabilitation plan that works for you. The goal of
rehabilitation is to gradually increase the joint’s strength and restore its
range of motion. Remember, it’s important to go slowly so you don’t reinjure
yourself before the recovery is complete.
How Can I Prevent a
can prevent a dislocation if you practice safe behavior. General tips to prevent
- Use handrails when going up and down staircases.
- Keep a first aid kit in the area.
- Use nonskid mats in wet areas, such as bathrooms.
- Move electrical cords off the floor.
- Avoid use of throw rugs.
prevent children from possible dislocations, consider practicing the following:
- Teach children safe behaviors.
- Watch and supervise children as needed.
- Ensure that your home is childproof and safe.
- Put gates on stairways to prevent falls.
you’re an adult and want to protect yourself from dislocations, you should:
- Wear protective gear or clothing when doing physical
activities, such as sports.
- Remove throw rugs from your floor, or replace them with
- Avoid standing on unstable items, such as chairs.
What Is the Long-Term
dislocation has its own unique healing time. Most people experience a full
recovery in several weeks. For some joints, such as hips, full recovery may
take several months or years and may require additional surgeries.
your dislocation received prompt treatment, chances are that it won’t worsen
into a permanent injury. However, it’s important to remember that the area will
be weak and is more likely to dislocate in the future.
healing time will also be longer if blood vessels or nerves were damaged in the
dislocation. On occasion, the blood vessels that supply the bones are
the dislocation is severe or isn’t treated in time, there may be permanent
problems such as persistent pain or the cell death of parts of bone around the