Dislocations: Causes and Treatment

Dislocations: Causes and Treatment

Nov 01, 2019

Dislocations happen when your bone dislodges out of the joint, and it affects your shoulders, hips, ankles, and knees. A dislocation should be treated as a medical emergency as the bone shifts from its original position. When treated properly, joint dislocations return to normal after a few weeks. However, if untreated, they can damage your ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves.

At times, a subluxation (partial dislocation) can occur. This is a chronic problem where the bone dislodges and shifts back into their original position without treatment.

Dislocation symptoms include:

  • Swollen or discolored joints
  • Intense pain
  • Visible deformed bone

Because it is hard to differentiate between a broken bone or dislocation, you should treat both as emergency medical situations, and you should visit emergency care near you.

When you visit the Express ER emergency room, the doctor will do an x-ray and MRI to determine the affected joint, presence of broken bones, and damaged tissues around the dislocated joint, if any.

Are You at Risk?

Anyone can suffer from dislocation, but they are common in elderly people who have mobility issues, children, and athletes.

Genes can also increase susceptibility as some people are born with loose ligaments increasing their risk of injury. Sports participation also predisposes you, especially if you play high-impact sports like football, wrestling, and basketball.

Complications of Dislocations

A dislocated joint can lead to other complications;

  • Nerve damage around the joint
  • Muscle, ligament, and tendon tear
  • Development of arthritis in the joints

What to Do After a Dislocation?

The Do’s

  • Stay immobilized after the injury
  • Apply ice packs to ease swelling and pain
  • Lay flat to prevent shock and elevate your feet. Also, if possible, cover up with a coat or blanket
  • Call 911


  • Don’t move unless the affected joint is fully immobilized or if there is a risk of neck injury
  • Don’t attempt to straighten the misshapen joint or change its position
  • Don’t eat anything until you get medical attention

What Treatment Options is Available?

The treatment of choice will depend on the joint affected and the severity. John Hopkins University recommends the use of R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) therapy as some of the dislocations shift back after this treatment.

If the R.I.C.E treatment does not work, the doctor may use any of these treatments;

The doctor may immobilize the joints with a sling or splint for several weeks. This treatment will depend on the joint affected and the damage of the blood vessels nerves and supporting tissues.

These include movements of the bone to help it shift back into the joint socket. You may get a local anesthetic before the treatment to ease the pain.

This treatment begins after manipulation and reduction treatments. The goal of the rehabilitation process is to restore joints’ strength and motion.

Our doctor may perform surgery if the blood and nerves are damaged. The surgical procedure reconstructs as well as repair damaged structures. In severe cases, you may require a joint or hip replacement.

The doctor may also prescribe pain-relievers to ease the discomfort and pain.

Are Dislocations Preventable?

Joint dislocations are unpredictable and occur suddenly. However, you can take steps to prevent falling.

  • Get your eyes checked regularly to prevent vision failure
  • Discuss with the doctor any medications you are taking that cause dizziness
  • Ensure your house is well-lighted to reduce the chance of tripping
  • Remove any hazards like rags if you have seniors in the house
  • Wear protective gear when you are playing high-contact sports
  • Engage in strength and stability exercises to improve joint support and strengthen muscles. This will help to prevent a dislocation recurrence.


Each dislocation is unique and has a different healing time; some people may recover after a few weeks while others take months or a year. The healing time may also be affected if the blood vessels and nerves were damaged.

If the dislocation is not treated on time, it can cause permanent damage to your surrounding blood cells and nerves. It is, therefore, important to seek medical attention immediately after a dislocation occurs to prevent damage to the muscle, nerves, or tendons. At Express ER, we have a 24-hour emergency room dedicated to addressing the dislocations.

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