Joint dislocation occurs when the bones in the body become misaligned. Usually, these injuries affect the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the joint causing pain. Although most dislocations arise from blows or forceful injury to the joint, some dislocations (particularly of the hip) are inborn or congenital resulting from faulty bone development. The most common dislocations involve the shoulders, fingers and thumbs although it can also affect the hips, elbow and ankle.
In general, dislocations are classified either as simple dislocation (does not involve an open wound) or compound dislocation (joint is visible through an open wound).
A dislocated joint cannot function normally, often causing pain on movement, limited range of motion, and even loss of function of the joint. In severe cases, dislocation can cause tearing of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles surrounding the joint. It can also impair circulation within the affected area leading to severe tissue damage. Young individuals who have had dislocated shoulder are at increased risk for recurrence.
Disclaimer: the information posted on this page on first aid for dislocations is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage dislocations, sprains and strains enrol in workplace approved first aid training by clicking here.
As mentioned above, forceful impact to the joint such as fall, blow or other trauma are the most common causes of joint dislocations. Diseases (either acquired or congenital) and defective ligament may also cause dislocation. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the diseases that often lead to joint dislocation.
It is estimated that around two thirds of traumatic hip dislocations are due to motor vehicle accidents. Meanwhile, sports injuries and falls from height are also a leading cause of dislocation to the hip and shoulder joints.
Normally, symptoms of joint dislocation are localized to the affected part of the body. The individual may present general symptoms that can help you recognize dislocation:
Prompt and proper first aid increases the chances of a complete recovery. Usually, the severity of the dislocation depends on its cause and the affected joint. Some joints just heal much faster than others. If you suspect someone has dislocated a joint, you can help by:
Victims of joint dislocation must be examined by a doctor for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment. Hip dislocations are a medical emergency and require immediate treatment. Some of the common emergency treatment procedures include:
DO NOT attempt to manipulate, pull or re-align the injured joint. Leave this task to a professional. If you suspect dislocation of the vertebrae due to neck or back injury, DO NOT move the person unless it is necessary, such as when establishing an airway, providing CPR or there is clear danger.