A dislocation is an injury to a joint, a place where two or more bones meet, in which the ends of the bones are forced from their normal positions. A dislocation is a painful injury that temporarily deforms and immobilizes the joint.

Dislocation most often occurs in the shoulders and fingers. Other dislocation sites include the elbows, knees and hips. A dislocation injury requires prompt medical attention to return the bones in the original positions.

Most dislocations return to normal function within several weeks of rehabilitation and proper treatment. However, some joints may have an increased risk of repeat dislocation.



Symptoms of a dislocated joint include:


  • Joint that is visibly deformed or out of place
  • Joint that is swollen or discolored
  • Intense pain in the affected joint
  • Immobilization of the affected joint
  • Tingling or numbness near or below the injury



Dislocation injuries can occur in contact sports and in sports that involve falls such as football, gymnastics and downhill skiing. Basketball and football players commonly dislocate the joints in the fingers and hands by striking the ball, the ground or another player. Another cause of dislocation may be a hard blow to a joint during a motorized vehicle accident or landing on an outstretched arm during a fall.


Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of joint dislocation include:


  • Susceptibility to falls
  • Heredity (being born with ligaments that are looser and prone to injury)
  • Sports participation
  • Motor vehicle accidents



Complications of joint dislocation may include:


  • Tearing of the muscles, ligaments and tendons that reinforce the injured joint
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage in or around the joint
  • Susceptibility to repeated injuries in the case of severe dislocation or repeated dislocation
  • Development of arthritis in the affected joint


Surgery may be necessary if ligaments or tendons that support the injured joint have been stretched or torn or if blood vessels that surround the joint have been damaged.



The following tips may help prevent dislocation:


  • Precautions to avoid falls
  • Protective gear when playing contact sports or sports that involve falls
  • Avoiding recurrence with strength and stability exercises