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Symptoms of a joint dislocation may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling at the site of the injury
  • Misalignment, or a joint that looks funny
  • Bruising

When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor as quickly as possible after dislocating a joint. It can be hard to tell if a joint is dislocated or if the bone is broken. Both injuries require quick medical attention.


Joint dislocations can be caused by:

  • Impact sports like football, hockey, or rugby
  • Sports in which you fall often, such as downhill skiing or gymnastics
  • Any sport where a fast-moving ball or player can strike a joint and knock it out of place, like basketball or soccer
  • A hard blow to the joint from a car accident or slipping on ice

Diagnosis and Tests

Joint dislocation can usually be diagnosed with a physical examination. The doctor will ask about your medical history, the injury, and your level of pain/In some cases, an x-ray may be needed to check the location and severity of the injury.


Dislocated joint treatment depends on where the injury occurs and how bad it is. Dislocations can be treated with:

  • Splints or slings
  • Moving the joint back into place
  • Pain medicines
  • Ice, to keep the swelling down
  • Physical therapy and stretches to keep the joint from locking up or freezing during the healing process
  • Surgery, if the joint is severely damaged.


You can take steps to prevent dislocation by:

  • Being careful to avoid falls:
    • Keep walkways free of things that can make you trip
    • Use glasses or contacts so you can be aware of your surroundings
    • Keep your home well lit
    • Be aware of the side effects of medicine that could make you dizzy
    • Using grippy mats in bathrooms and bathtubs
  • Playing contact sports with the right safety equipment, including:
    • Pads
    • Helmets
    • Masks
  • Being careful with joints that have been dislocated before, so that they don’t get injured again

If you have had dislocated a joint before, physical therapy may help improve the strength of joints and avoid another injury.

What is a Joint Dislocation?

A joint dislocation is when bones are forced out of their normal position. The usual cause of a joint dislocation is a hard fall or blow to the joint. Joints that can be dislocated include the:

  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Shoulders
  • Hips
  • Elbows
  • Jaw
  • Fingers or toes