Bone Dislocation: Causes & Risk Factors

A dislocation is an injury which temporarily deforms and immobilises your joint, causing displacement or separation of your bones. This injury may result in sudden and severe pain. Commonly caused as a result of a traumatic injury, dislocations can occur in any joint.

Dislocations that are caused in major joints, such as shoulder, hip, knee, elbow and ankle, take longer to heal whereas those in the smaller joints located in your fingers, thumbs and toes heal sooner than major dislocations.


#1 Sports

Dislocations commonly occur while playing sports such as football and hockey, and in sports that may involve falls, such as gymnastics, volleyball and downhill skiing. Dislocations can occur among basketball players while accidentally striking the ball or another player.

#2 Trauma not related to sports/Accidents

Traumatic incidences, such as a hard blow during a vehicle accident, caused to a joint, is a common rampant cause of dislocation.

#3 Falls

Severe or mild falls may also dislocate a joint.

Risk Factors

  • Susceptibility to falls
    If you experience a fall in which you end up landing on one of your body parts, such as your elbow or hip, it exposes you to the possibility of a dislocated joint.
  • Heredity 
    Heredity is one of the common causes of dislocations. Certain set of people are born with looser ligaments than others and more prone to a joint injury than those of most people.
  • Sports Accidents
    According to researchers, most cases of dislocations occur during sports, such as gymnastics, wrestling, basketball and football, in which the body is under high-impact stress.
  • Vehicle accidents
    Accidents are the most common causes of hip dislocations, but their risk factors can be reduced by wearing seat belts.


Listed below are the complications that may arise in or around he dislocated joint.

  • Tearing of the muscles, damage to the joint capsule, tearing of ligaments and tendons that reinforce the injured joint
  • Nerve damage in or around your joint
  • Blood vessel damage in or around your joint
  • Susceptibility to re-injury
  • Development of arthritis

Sometimes a dislocation may need a surgery to cure it completely if the ligaments or tendons that support the injured joint have been torn or damaged. Surgeries may also be necessary if nerves or blood vessels surrounding the joint have been damaged.


Besides physically examining your injury, your doctor may ask you to go for an X-ray exam or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in order to confirm the dislocation and know its exact location. The X-ray exam helps in revealing the exact location and nature of the broken bones or other damage caused to the joint. An MRI scan can help in assessing the damage to the soft tissues around the dislocated joint.


If you’re suffering from the symptoms of dislocation and the diagnosis confirms it, the treatment of the dislocation will depend on the site and severity of your injury and may include:

  1. Reduction – The first step
    The first step in treating dislocated joints is reduction. During reduction, your doctor may try certain gentle exercises to help your bones back into the right position. You may or may not need a local or a general anaesthetic before these exercises.
  2. Immobilisation – Necessary for cure
    Once your bones are back in their right places, you may require a splint or a sling for several weeks to cure the joint. This may immobilise your joint for weeks together. The duration of wearing the splint will depend on the nature and location of your dislocation.
  3. Pain medication – For instant relief
    Although the reduction process will help improve any severe pain, the pain might continue longer. In case of acute pain, a pain killer or a muscle relaxant can provide some relief.
  4. Surgery – If it’s complicated
    A surgery will only be necessary if your blood vessels or nerves are damaged or if your doctor can’t move your dislocated bones back into their correct positions.
  5. Rehabilitation – Take it easy!
    Once the splint treatment is finished after a few weeks and your splint is removed, your doctor will begin a slow rehabilitation program, which may include physiotherapy exercises designed to restore your joint’s range of motion and bone strength.

However, some dislocations, such as the hip or the shoulder, may need several months to cure completely.

If your dislocation is relatively less complicated without any major nerve or tissue damage, your joint is likely to return to a near-normal or fully normal condition after the complete treatment. But trying to rehabilitate to your pre-injury state too soon from such an injury may cause you to re-injure the joint again. Therefore, take it easy!

Home Remedies

In order to help ease the discomfort level while suffering from a dislocation, try these simple home remedies and encourage healing after being treated for a dislocation injury.

  • Rest
    Give ample rest to your dislocated joint. Don’t repeat the specific action that caused your injury and try to avoid painful movements of the affected joint.  Lower stress levels; higher healing.
  • Ice and Heat Packs 
    The age-old home remedy of applying a cold pack works on reducing the pain and inflammation. You could use a towel filled with ice cubes for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You may follow this regime for the first two days while you’re awake, which can improve the pain and inflammation. After about two or three days, when the pain and inflammation have improved, you could use a hot-water bag, which will help relax tightened, sore muscles. Limit heat applications to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Pain Relievers
     General pain relievers that can be bought over the counter, such as ibuprofen, naproxen (Aleve and others) or acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, may help relieve pain. Always follow the instructions on the tablet label or take only as much as advised by your doctor.
  • Light Exercises
    Certain light exercises directed by your physiotherapist will help in maintaining the range of motion in your injured joint. However, total inactivity may lead to stiff joints.

Avoiding recurrence

If you’ve dislocated a joint once, you might be more prone to future dislocations. Follow the specific strength and stability exercises that your physiotherapist advises for your injury. Work on building your bone strength.

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