What Is Joint Dislocation?

Dislocation injury

A dislocation is a separation of two bones where they meet at a joint. This injury can be very painful and can temporarily deform and immobilize the joint. The most common locations for a dislocation are shoulders and fingers, but can also occur in elbows, knees and hips. The cause is often a fall or a blow, sometimes from playing a contact sport.


Signs and symptoms of a dislocation include:

  • Joint is visibly deformed or out of place
  • Numbness or tingling at the joint
  • Swollen or discolored
  • Limited ability to move
  • Intense pain
  • Treatment at Penn

    Treatment of a dislocation depends on the location of the joint and the severity of the injury.

    Initial treatment for a dislocation involves rest, ice, compression and elevation. Sometimes, the dislocated joint might go back into place naturally after this treatment. If this does not occur, there are a number of treatments your doctor may use, including:


    Your doctor may try to reposition the joint back into place. You may be given sedative or anesthetic to remain comfortable and to allow the muscles near your joint to relax.


    If your doctor was able to reposition your bones, you will then likely need to weather a splint or sling for several weeks to immobilize the joint.


    Surgery may be required to move your dislocated bones back into the correct positions if nearby blood vessels, nerves or ligaments have been damaged. Surgery may be an option if you've had multiple dislocations, especially in the shoulder.


    Most people can expect to fully recover within a few weeks. However, for some joints, such as hips, full recovery may take several months. The healing time will also be longer if blood vessels or nerves were damaged in the dislocation.

    It is important to remember that the area will be weakened and is at a greater risk to become dislocated in the future.

    Penn Programs & Services for Joint Dislocation

    Provider holding patient's shoulder while patient holds neck
    Shoulder Pain

    Penn orthopaedic specialists offer comprehensive surgical and nonsurgical options to treat every type of shoulder condition.

    Trauma and Fracture Program

    Broken bones, regardless of their complexity, require specialized care. The experts at the Penn Orthopaedic Trauma and Fracture program offer treatment, surgical reconstruction, and long-term rehabilitation for all types of fractures.

    Share This Page: