What is a dislocation and causes of dislocations?


If a bone dislodges from the joint and does not return to its natural position, a dislocation or dislocation occurs. It is a common injury, so it is essential to know how to act in these cases.

The human body has many joints that allow the limbs’ mobility and is formed by the union of some bones with others through muscles, ligaments, and other elements. In a normal situation, these pieces fit perfectly, but sometimes one of these parts separates from the other and does not return to its natural position. This is what is called a dislocation.

There are times when the bone dislodges from the joint but immediately returns to its cavity. What occurs in these cases is a subluxation.

Generally, the most compromised joints are the hip, knee, elbow, ankle, and shoulder. In principle, dislocations do not pose an imminent life risk, but they must be treated promptly if blood vessels, nerves, or muscles are affected.

Sometimes it can be challenging to differentiate a fracture – a broken bone – from a dislocation. However, both receive the same first aid treatment and receive special attention when health services determine the type of injury suffered by the patient.

Causes of dislocations

This type of injury is common because it does not have to be a unique situation for it to occur. A blow, not necessarily strong, that is received in a specific place can dislocate a limb, as it can happen with a bad posture or a fall with bad support.

Depending on the affected joint, the causes of dislocation vary. The most commons are:

  • Shoulder: can be dislocated both forwards and backward, most of the time due to poor arm support or due to very sudden movements.
  • Hip: caused by substantial impacts on the leg that leverage and cause dislocation.
  • Knee: The knee joint is more complex since several bones are involved, and dislocation can occur at any joints. Usually, the cause of the dislocation is forced rotation, poor support, and trauma.
  • Ankle: this joint is the one that usually suffers the most traumatic injuries. The ankle must support the entire weight of the body. It cushions the blows and constantly suffers footfalls on uneven terrain. An untrained person who supports the foot poorly is more likely to dislocate, as are obese people who overload the joint. A simple step is enough to injure an ankle.
  • Elbow: elbow dislocation is more common in children than in adults, especially from falls when starting to walk or jerks when holding hands ( babysitting elbow ).
  • Back: The vertebrae of the spine can also change position or fracture. These are usually cases where there has been a strong trauma, such as a fall from a great height or a traffic accident.

Signs and symptoms of a dislocation

Dislocations and subluxations, like most trauma injuries, present characteristic signs, and symptoms. Sometimes, the naked eye cannot determine the type of injury, whether it is a subluxation or a strain. However, the treatment will remain the same until the medical services do the necessary tests to evaluate the injury.

Some characteristics are the same in both complete dislocations and subluxations, which are:

  • Sharp and severe pain, especially when trying to move the joint or carry weight.
  • Swollen and bruised area.
  • If there is nerve involvement, the affected person will feel a tingling sensation and possible paralysis.
  • But in the case of a dislocation, being a more serious injury, it will also be observed:
  • Deformation of the limb, which adopts an unnatural posture.
  • Inability to move the member.
  • Possible serious damage to the ligaments, even requiring the use of surgery.
  • Greater likelihood of future dislocations, as the ligaments are stretched, and the joint is more likely to come out.