Diagnosis

Besides examining your injury, your doctor might order the following

  • X-ray. An X-ray of your joint is used to confirm the dislocation and may reveal broken bones or other damage to your joint.
  • MRI. This can help your doctor assess damage to the soft tissue structures around a dislocated joint.

Treatment

Treatment of the dislocation depends on the site and severity of your injury. It might involve:

  • Reduction. Your doctor might try gentle maneuvers to help your bones back into position. Depending on the amount of pain and swelling, you might need a local anesthetic or even a general anesthetic before manipulation of your bones.
  • Immobilization. After your bones are back in position, your doctor might immobilize your joint with a splint or sling for several weeks. How long you wear the splint or sling depends on the joint involved and the extent of damage to nerves, blood vessels and supporting tissues.
  • Surgery. You might need surgery if your doctor can't move your dislocated bones into their correct positions or if the nearby blood vessels, nerves or ligaments have been damaged. Surgery may also be necessary if you have had recurring dislocations, especially of your shoulder.
  • Rehabilitation. After your splint or sling is removed, you'll begin a gradual rehabilitation program designed to restore your joint's range of motion and strength.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Try these steps to help ease discomfort and encourage healing after being treated for a dislocation injury:

  • Rest your dislocated joint. Don't repeat the action that caused your injury, and try to avoid painful movements.
  • Apply ice and heat. Putting ice on your injured joint helps reduce inflammation and pain. Use a cold pack for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. For the first day or two, try to do this every couple of hours during the day. After two or three days, when the pain and inflammation have improved, hot packs or a heating pad may help relax tightened and sore muscles. Limit heat applications to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Take a pain reliever. Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), can help relieve pain.
  • Maintain the range of motion in your joint. After one or two days, do some gentle exercises as directed by your doctor or physical therapist to help maintain range of motion in your injured joint. Total inactivity can cause stiff joints.
Dec. 23, 2016
References
  1. Marx JA, et al., eds. General principles of orthopedic injuries. In: Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 3, 2016.
  2. Babhulkar A, et al. Acromioclavicular joint dislocations. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 2014;7:33.
  3. Sherman SC. Shoulder dislocation and reduction. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 3, 2016.
  4. Joshi SV. Digit dislocation reduction. http://www.update.com/home. Accessed July 3, 2016.
  5. Elbow dislocation. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic= a00029. Accessed July 3, 2016.
  6. Canale ST, et al. Recurrent dislocations. In: Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2013. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 3, 2016.
  7. Smith D, et al. Sideline management of acute dislocation of the glenohumeral joint — A unique approach to athlete self-reduction. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2013;8:80.