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Joint Dislocation and Displacement

A dislocation is an injury in which bones are disconnected from the joint socket that holds them in place. Dislocations are normally quite painful, and they temporarily immobilize the joint and make the affected area appear deformed. 

Shoulder dislocations (along with finger dislocations) are the most common type of dislocations orthopedic specialists treat, however any ball and socket joint can experience dislocation. Other types of dislocations include dislocated knee, hip dislocation and elbow dislocation. 

When a dislocation is treated properly, the joint and bones should return to normal function within a few weeks of rest and, if necessary, rehabilitation. However, once a joint becomes dislocated, it is more prone to future dislocations.

Severe dislocations can cause damage to the muscles, ligaments, and blood vessels around the joint. It’s these types of dislocations that can require surgery to repair.

How dislocations occur

Usually an accident or trauma causes dislocated or displaced joints. Athletes participating in contact sports and activities that put you at high risk for falling are more likely to experience joint dislocation. 

People can also experience joint displacement or dislocation after falling and catching themselves with an outstretched hand or after an auto accident with significant impact. Anytime the joints are significantly impacted, a dislocation can occur.

Typical treatment plans

Treatment for a joint dislocation will depend upon the type of dislocation and the extent of the injury. Your treatment may involve:

  • Moving the bones back into position – this is called reduction. It might require anesthesia (either local or general) depending on how much pain and swelling you’re experiencing. 
  • Keeping your bones and joints in place – this is called immobilization. Your injury may require a splint or sling for a few weeks to keep your bone and joint from moving while it heals.
  • Performing surgery – If your doctor can’t move your bones back into the normal position or if there is damage to nearby ligaments, nerves, or blood vessels, surgery may be necessary. You may also need surgery if you have experienced multiple dislocations in the same place. This is especially true of repetitive shoulder dislocations.
  • Rehabilitation – If the dislocation requires surgery or immobilization, you will likely need to go through rehabilitation to improve the range of motion and strength of the joint.

If your doctor recommends home treatment, you may just need to rest your joint, apply ice and heat, take pain relievers, and do some gentle exercises after a few days of rest to keep a good range of motion in your joint.

Long-term prognosis after joint dislocation

The long-term prognosis for joint dislocation injuries is generally good. With proper treatment and rehabilitation, you may not have any long-term effects. However, one joint dislocation puts you at risk for future dislocations – especially if you dislocate your shoulder – so you may want to take precautions to avoid recurrence. Avoiding contact sports can help, as can strength training and stability exercises. Ask your orthopedic doctor or physical therapist for specific exercises for your type of dislocation.

Connect with our orthopedic specialists 

At Beaumont, our orthopedic surgeons are breaking new ground and pioneering treatments that improve the lives of patients dealing with joint pain and other orthopedic condition. We have specialists in hand & wrist, hip & knee, spine, back, neck and more. Whether you’re seeking help with an existing condition, you would like a diagnosis, or you are looking for help with recovery and rehabilitation, Beaumont joint pain doctors can help. Beaumont has orthopedic specialists who offer the treatments and services you need.

Call us at 800-633-7377 to make an appointment, or request an appointment online.