The medical term that means bones in one of the joints are pushed out from its usual place is dislocation. Dislocation can happen anywhere in the body but in most cases occurs during sports injuries or trauma. However, it is not recommended to force or even push a dislocated joint back into place.

What is a Dislocation?

The joints are the place where two bones meet and are an important part of the skeletal system. The human body has hundreds of joints in all body, which support it from head to toe. Dislocation can happen anywhere in the body and can be painful or make it impossible to use the affected joint. Furthermore, a dislocation may provoke a tear or strain of the tissues around the joints. For example muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, and others. Never force or push a joint back into place on your own but go to the emergency room if you experience one.

Dislocation Types

Experts classify dislocation based on how far the bones in the joints move. For example:

  • Complete dislocations (luxation) – This dislocation type happens when the bones are completely separated out of place.
  • Subluxation – This medical term means a partial dislocation. It happens when something pulls the joint apart but bones are still touch.

How Common Are Dislocations?

Luxations are very common. Check below the most common dislocation joints:

  • Jaws
  • Hips
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Shoulders
  • Fingers


The symptoms commonly depend on the type of dislocation you experience and which joint is affected. Examples include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Unable to move or use the joint
  • A feeling of instability (the joint is weaker than usual)
  • The joint is looking significantly different or out of place

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or any others, do not hesitate to visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.


Approximately any force that is able to push a joint out of place, provokes dislocation. The most common are accidents, falls, and sports injuries.

Risk Factors

In some cases, people may be at higher risk of dislocations. Examples include:

  • Play contact sports
  • People older than 65 years old
  • Those who suffer from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a health condition that causes weakness of the connective tissues including ligaments, tendons, and muscles)


Check below the most common dislocation complications:

  • Nerve damage
  • Tendon or ligament sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Bone fractures (broken bones)


In most cases, a physical examination is enough to confirm a dislocation. However, in case doctors are not sure you have a dislocation, they can order you to do some tests that will help to diagnose this problem. Examples include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • X-rays
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Ultrasound


The treatment goal is to put back the joint in its correct place. Physicians usually call this procedure a relocation, manipulation, or closed reduction. During this procedure, your healthcare provider will push and pull gently the dislocated joint to put it back into alignment. In some cases, doctors may give you local anesthesia or sedatives before relocating your joint. Additionally, X-rays often are done to check if there are broken bones in or around the dislocated joint.

It is not recommended to relocate the joint on your own or by someone who is not a healthcare provider. Usually, people with dislocation go to the emergency room (ER) because it is the best place to fix this problem. In some circumstances, you may need other treatments. For example:

  • Immobilization – The doctors may recommend holding the affected joint in place while it heals.
  • Rest – Avoid physical activity, especially heavy training while healing.
  • Medicines – Doctors also may suggest to use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications to lessen pain and inflammation. However, you should not use OTC for more than 10 days consecutively without a doctor’s recommendation.
  • Surgery – This procedure is done by a surgeon usually when a closed reduction does not work or a dislocated joint has damaged other tissues inside the body.

In case you have any additional questions, ask your healthcare professional.


Unfortunately, it is not always possible to prevent a dislocation because of accidents and traumas you cannot plan for. Check below some tips during sports or other physical activities:

  • Wear always protective equipment
  • In case one of your joints hurts, it is advised to stop physical activity
  • After intense activity, give your body time to rest and recover
  • Stretch and cool down after physical activities and warm up before any of them (for example before playing sports or working out)

Check below some general tips that will reduce the risk of dislocation:

  • Maintain your home and workspace free from cutters to reduce the risk of falls.
  • It is recommended to avoid chairs, tables, or countertops to get something and use proper tools and equipment.
  • In case you experience difficulty walking, use a cane or walker because it will help also to decrease the risk of falls.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the recovery time after a dislocation?

Commonly, people recover within several weeks after a dislocation. The duration of the healing depends on which joint was dislocated. For example, a dislocated finger may recover within 3 weeks. However, a big joint such as the shoulder may need months to heal totally. In any case, your physician will prescribe the duration of the treatment and will tell you when you can resume physical activities. Moreover, if you return to physical activities before complete healing, you are at higher risk of reinjuring the joint and can get dislocation again.

What questions should I ask my physician?

  • When can I return to doing physical activities?
  • Will I need surgery?
  • How much time will I need to fully recover?
  • How should I keep my joints immobilized?
  • What treatment option is the best for me?
  • Which type of dislocation do I have?

When should I go to the emergency room (ER)?

In case you suspect you have a dislocation, immediately go to the ER or right after you experience a trauma. Remember, you should not try to put the joint in its place on your own. You can also try to hold the injured joint and avoid using it or putting weight on it. Trying to put the joint back alone, can damage it more than it already is.

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