Dislocation Injuries: Symptoms and Effective Management

The occurrence of dislocation is quite much these days as falls, accident, and injuries tends to be rampant.

You may have had dislocation or know of someone who has had a dislocation at any part of their body be it shoulder, elbow or knee. 

Most cases of dislocation tend to result in complications due to lack of knowledge about what dislocation is.

Not to worry, this article will answer all your questions on dislocation and provide you with more information on what dislocation is, symptoms of dislocation and what you should do when you experience dislocation.

A dislocation occurs majorly at the joint, which makes it a joint injury. It occurs as a result of a disconnection between the ends of 2 connected bones, in most cases this disconnection occurs due to extreme force on a  flexible band of fibrous tissue called ligament which connects various bones and cartilage, thereby allowing the ends of 2 connected bones to separate.

Dislocation doesn't occur in the joints of younger children because their growth plates, areas at the end of long bones where the bones grow, are weaker than the muscles or tendons. 

Therefore dislocations happen more often among teens and adults between the age of 18 to 30.

This article explores the causes, diagnosis, treatment and management, risk factors, complications and how to prevent dislocation.

So I encourage you to keep reading to find out all of the above.


Types of dislocations 

Dislocations are majorly classified on two bases one of which is the rate at which a bone moves away from its joint, with this dislocation can be classified as being complete or partial.

Secondly, dislocation can be classified based on the position of occurrence which brings about shoulder dislocation, hip dislocation, and finger dislocation.

  • Complete Dislocation: Also known as location is the total separation of a bone from its joint or out-of-place
  • Partial Dislocation: Known as subluxation is an incomplete dislocation in which the bone's surfaces still touch even when the joints are apart

Common classifications of dislocation based on their location include.

  • Shoulder Dislocation: Research indicates that this type of dislocation is the most common with a record of 50% of all major joint dislocation occurring mostly at the anterior part of the shoulder

The shoulder is prone to dislocation due to the presence of an unstable shallow glenoid that joins with a small part of the humeral head.

  • Hip Dislocation: Dislocation at this part of the body depends on the direction of dislocation around the femoral head which could be anteriorly or posteriorly

90% of hip dislocation cases have been recorded to occur posteriorly as a result of how strong the anterior ligament is compared to the ligament present posteriorly.

Hip dislocations are quite sensitive medical emergencies that should be treated promptly to prevent complications.

  • Finger Dislocation: This is a common hand injury that can occur at the three joints of the finger, the metacarpophalangeal joint, proximal interphalangeal, and distal interphalangeal joint

When dislocation at the finger is not taken care of, it could lead to deformities, stiffness, loss of function, and chronic pain.

  • Knee Dislocation: This occurs at the kneecap (patella). They are considered knee limb-threatening injuries due to the potential neurovascular damage associated with this injury

Causes of dislocation 

There is a fibrous connective tissue in the body that attaches bone to bone ensuring stability. When there is an extreme force on the ligament, dislocation occurs.

A force from falls, accidents, and sports injuries is usually the reason dislocation occurs.

Signs and symptoms of dislocation 

Signs and symptoms of dislocation vary depending on the joint affected and the type of dislocation you experience which could be subluxation or location.

The common symptoms of dislocation in patients include.

  • The popping sensation is a result of the built-up of bubbles in the fluid around the joints.
  • Pain with decreased range of motion 
  • The feeling of your joint rolling out of the socket 
  • Stinging and numbness at the time of the dislocation

Management and treatment for dislocation 

To manage or treat a dislocated joint the most important thing to be done is to put the dislocated joint back to its correct position; this is called relocation or close reduction.

Closed reduction is done by carefully pushing the dislocated joint back into alignment.

In some cases anaesthesia is given to make you feel less pain or sleepy, also there might be a need to carry out an X-ray examination before and after close reduction to detect if there are broken bones around your joint.

It is important to know that you should never let anyone carry out the above procedure for you other than a healthcare provider, nor should you do it on your own.

Depending on how severe the dislocated joint is, you might have to wear a splint, sling, or brace.

Also, medications may be recommended to reduce the pain and inflammation. Your healthcare provider may also recommend staying away from any physical activity that puts stress on your affected joints.


Dislocation is usually diagnosed with an exam where various questions on how the injury happened are being asked together with historical records.

For further examination, there might be a need to carry out an X-ray to view and detect possible damage to internal tissues, bones, and organs.

In cases when there is a need for surgery to correct the dislocated part, an MRI is conducted.

Risk factors 

Dislocations are often associated with or known to be caused by falls, accidents, or injuries from sports. It is also important to know that there are also risk factors associated with other distractions, a few of which include 

  • Gender: Research has it that about 70% of shoulder dislocation occurs in males
  • History: An individual who has once experienced shoulder dislocation is liable to have it again due to the weakening of the surrounding tissues caused by the first dislocation
  • Age: Although dislocation can happen at any age it is quite common among those between the ages of 18 to 30 
  • Genetic Composition: This indicates a dislocation inherited from the family. In this case, the individuals experience shoulder dislocation even without injury or pain


Common complications from dislocation include 

  • Nerve damage 
  • Broken bones 
  • Damage to blood vessels 
  • Muscle strains 
  • Damage to ligament and tendon


How can I prevent dislocation 

Prevention, they say, is better than cure. To save yourself the stress of going through the pains or discomfort associated with a dislocation, it is quite advisable to adhere to preventive measures that will keep you from experiencing dislocation, some of which include:

  • Ensure you wear protective gear when engaging in sports 
  • Avoid falls 
  • Engage in regular exercise which will help you maintain strength and flexibility

How common is dislocation 

The occurrence of dislocation is quite common with more occurrences associated with the shoulder and ankle ligamentous injury. Also, the frequent occurrence is common among the younger populations

When should I see a doctor 

If you experience any of the symptoms of dislocation listed above or find it difficult to use any part of your body. It is important to see a doctor with immediate effect to prevent any implications associated with dislocation 


Dislocation is a joint injury that occurs due to the disconnection between the ends of two bones.

It occurs majorly among teens and adults between the ages of 18 to 30. Past records also have it that dislocation is quite common among males, guess this is due to the fact that they engage more in strenuous activities than females.

There are several types of dislocation, which are classified based on how severe it is (complete and partial dislocation) and the position of occurrence (shoulder, knee, elbow, finger, and hip dislocation)

Shoulder dislocation is the most common type of dislocation.

Dislocation is commonly caused by force from falls, accidents, and sports injuries.

When a dislocation occurs it usually gives signs and symptoms such as a popping sensation, pain, decreased range of motion, the feeling of your joint rolling out of the socket, stinging and numbness 

In treating dislocation, the first thing to be done is to try and put the dislocated joint back to its normal position and this is called relocation or closed reduction. 

This process is to be carried out by a healthcare giver 

Dislocation is diagnosed by asking the patient's question on how the injury happened, X- ray is also used to diagnose dislocation and MRI is carried out if there is a need for further medical intervention like surgery.

Aside from falls, accidents or injuries, there are also certain risk factors associated with dislocation, a few of which include gender, age, genetic composition, and medical history.

Dislocation not attended to in time or beyond control could damage the nerve, blood tissues, ligament, and tendon, cause broken bones, and muscle strains 

The best ways to prevent dislocation from happening is to wear protective gear, avoid falls by making sure everything that might cause falls is eradicated and engage in regular exercises which helps to strengthen the body and maintain stability.


  1. Shoulder dislocation. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. [cited 2021 Sep]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459125/
  2. Hip dislocation. In: Cureus [Internet]. Palo Alto (CA): Cureus; c2018-. [cited 2021 Sep]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162140/
  3. Finger dislocation. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. [cited 2021 Sep]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551508/
  4. Knee dislocation. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. [cited 2021 Sep]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470595/
  5. Signs and symptoms. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. [cited 2021 Sep]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459125/
  6. How common is dislocation. In: Cureus [Internet]. Palo Alto (CA): Cureus; c2017-. [cited 2021 Sep]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5736892/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ibironke Taiwo Mary

Bachelor's degree, Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse, Ambrose Alli University

Mary is a medical writer who is so passionate about educating people on how to maintain and live a healthy lifestyle through writing. She is a medical student from the Department of Nursing Science and has been a writer for more than a year. She is currently undertaking internship programs as a medical writer at Klarity Health.

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