Dislocation (Luxation)

What is Dislocation?

Dislocation (luxation) is what happens when a bone slips out of its joint. Dislocation can happen to most joints in the body as a result of an impact, fall or other pulling or pushing forces.

Typically, a dislocation can be located in the ankle, knee, shoulder, hip, and other joints. It is treated as an emergency and should get medical attention right away. If left untreated, it can lead to damaged blood vessels, ligaments, or nerves.

A partial dislocation is often referred to as “˜subluxation’.

What are the Symptoms of Dislocation?

The symptoms of a dislocation are usually fairly noticeable. The area where the dislocation has taken place is usually red in appearance or may appear bruised. It will become swollen and may be deformed looking because of the dislocation.

You will likely also feel pain and possibly numbness or tingling in the area of the dislocation and there will be a loss of movement in the area.

Dislocation Causes

Dislocations are often caused by abrupt trauma on the joint such as a blunt force or fall. Your anatomical structure can play a crucial role on how often you sustain dislocation injuries. Heredity is one of the common causes of dislocation. Due to genetics, some people are born with a “weak” anatomy, meaning the ligaments that hold their joints in place might not be strong enough to physically hold the joints together. This also holds for people who have received multiple injuries to the same joint. Thus, people who have prior joint injuries are more likely to dislocate the same joints in the future.

Falling can also increase your chances of dislocation, especially if you land forcefully on a body part like the hip or use your arms to brace for impact. The most common dislocations that arise from falls are shoulder and hip dislocations.

Sports participation is another common cause of dislocation. This, specifically, applies to high impact or contact sports like wrestling, gymnastics, basketball, rugby and football.

Finally, auto accidents can also cause a dislocation of the hip and shoulders, especially when the accident victims are not wearing seatbelts during impact.

How is Dislocation Treated?

Treatment for a dislocation will depend on the joint that has been dislocated and the severity of the condition. Until you get to see a doctor you should get rest, apply ice and compression, and elevate the dislocated area. In some instances, the dislocated joint will go back into place after this. If it does not go back into place you should see a doctor immediately.

Treatment includes

The doctor will try one of more of four types of treatment. Manipulation is one type of treatment for dislocation and it means that the doctor will physically manipulate the joint back into place. A sedative or anesthetic will likely be used to make the procedure less painful and more effective. Once the joint has been put back into place it will be immobilized with the use of a sling or cast to allow it to heal properly. Once the joint is back in place, most pain will be gone but your doctor may suggest a muscle relaxant or pain reliever to take away any pain the stays as it heals. Surgery for dislocation of a joint is only required if there has been damage to blood vessels or nerves. Sometimes it is also suggested when people dislocate the same joint repeatedly.

After the joint has been put back into the proper position and any sling or sprint has been removed, your joint will need rehabilitation. This treatment will restore the range of motion and the strength to the joint. It is important to give this portion of the treatment time so that you are not more likely to re-injure the joint.

Dislocation Prevention

No one can predict the future when it comes to injuries that can increase your chances of dislocating a hip or shoulder. However, taking certain safety measures can greatly help you to reduce the risk of dislocating a joint. For instance, having your safety belt on may not only minimize your injury during an accident but also save your life. When playing sports, be sure to use your gear as intended.

As already mentioned, people who have dislocated a joint before are more likely suffer from dislocations again. To avoid future dislocations, consider engaging in muscle and joint strength and stability exercises as recommended by your physiotherapist. Finally, take charge of your weight. According to experts, people who are overweight are more likely to dislocate a hip than those who are physically fit.

Last Reviewed:
October 05, 2016
Last Updated:
December 15, 2017