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How Do You Treat a Joint Dislocation?

Written by - Updated February 18, 2019

A dislocation is a type of injury where two or more bones are separated at the joint. Joint dislocation is very painful and requires prompt treatment by a medical professional to avoid causing further complications. Joint dislocations are also hard to tell apart from bone fractures which is exactly why you need to seek medical help if you suspect any of the two. Joint dislocations usually require weeks and even months of treatment depending on the severity of the injury and type of joint affected. To learn more about how joint dislocation is treated and about the healing process, keep reading.

Why Joints Dislocate?

Most joint dislocations happen as a result of a blow, fall, or another trauma to the affected joint. High impact sports, falls, and vehicle accidents are common causes of joint dislocations. In some cases, inherited connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome can make a person’s joints particularly vulnerable to dislocation. Children may also be prone to joint dislocation due to the relative laxity of a child’s joints.

What type of Joints Become Dislocated?

A fairly common site of dislocation are the shoulders largely because the shoulder joints are the most flexible joints in the human body. The shoulder joints require a lot of laxity and range of motion to freely move. While this feature gives humans an advantage in the way we can move our arms, this also makes us vulnerable to shoulder dislocations. Other commonly affected joints are elbows, knees, hips, feet, jaw, etc., but essentially, all joints in the human body can become dislocated.

Joints Become Dislocated

Mechanisms of Joint Dislocation

In normal conditions, the joints are held in place by the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Blunt trauma to the area can cause the joints to be pulled apart from these structures leading to tears and even fractures. All these structures can become damaged as a result of joint dislocation. Furthermore, the dislocated joint can put pressure on muscle, nervous, and blood tissue which is why prompt treatment is necessary to avoid complications from such injuries. The sooner the joint is put back into place, the better the patient outcomes.

What to do if Suspecting Joint Dislocation?

A dislocated joint usually causes a lot of pain, swelling, and prevents a person from moving the joint. The joint may also seem visibly out of place. If you suspect you are experiencing joint dislocation, don’t try to adjust the joint yourself to avoid causing further damage to the surrounding tissue. Instead, seek medical help immediately. While you wait for emergency treatment, you can cool the area with an ice pack to reduce pain and swelling but try to limit movement to the affected area.

First-hand treatment

First-Hand Treatment
A medical team will perform x-ray imaging to assess the position of the joint and to see if there are any fractures and other injuries involved. This will help in bringing the joint back into place without causing further damage. A doctor may give you pain killers or anesthetics before manipulating the joint back into place. Once the joint is back into its normal position, the severe pain of dislocation will significantly subside but there may be tenderness and some pain in the area following initial treatment. If the ligaments or tendons surrounding the joints have been damaged, then surgery may also be required.

Follow-up Treatment

After the joint is put back into place and surgery where necessary is performed, the joint should be held in place with a splint or bandage depending on whether the joint is simple or complex. The recovery period can take anywhere between two weeks to six months depending on the severity of the injury and type of joint affected. While you wait for the joint to heal, you may be given painkillers. After the initial few weeks of keeping the joint immobile to help the injured tissue heal, you will start physiotherapy to regain joint mobility and reduce your risk of future injuries. To start physiotherapy, pain and inflammation should be diminished, the joint should be stable and you should be able to demonstrate adequate neuromuscular control of the affected joint.

What to keep in mind?

Once a joint has been dislocated, it becomes more susceptible to future dislocations because of the changes in the surrounding tissue brought on by the injury. This is especially true for shoulder dislocations due to the already mentioned inherent laxity of this particular joint. Studies show that there is a 50% increase in recurrence of shoulder dislocation after the first episode. A dislocation of the shoulder joint can lead to chronic shoulder instability.

Conclusion

Joint dislocation is an extremely painful injury that you should never try to treat yourself. To avoid unnecessary injury to the surrounding tissue, you should seek medical help to bring the joint back into place. Once the joint is adjusted, weeks or even months of rehabilitation are required to regain joint function and strength. These include physiotherapy, hot and cold compresses, and pain relievers.

Author

Contributor : Melissa Feldman (Joint Health Magazine)

Melissa Feldman is a Canadian writer, editor, and English language expert. She has undergraduate degrees in both teaching and psychology, and a master’s degree in Immigration and Settlement Studies. She spent almost 20 years writing and designing English as a Second Language educational materials, including several textbooks. Melissa currently lives in Toronto, Canada and works as a freelance writer. You can connect with her on Linkedin.

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