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Understanding Dislocation -- Treatment

What Are the Treatments for a Dislocation?

If you think you may have dislocated a joint, get immediate emergency medical assistance. Someone trained in first aid can help stabilize the injury until an emergency team arrives.

First Aid

  • Keep the victim still and provide reassurance.
  • If the skin is broken by a fractured bone, or if you suspect there may be a broken bone under the skin, take steps to prevent infection. Don't breathe on the wound, and do not wash or probe it. Cover it with sterile dressings before immobilizing the injury.
  • Splint or sling the injury in the position in which you found it. Be sure to immobilize the area both above and below the injured joint and to check the circulation of the affected area after immobilizing. Apply ice packs to ease pain and swelling. Do not try to move a dislocated joint back into place as this can damage the joint and its surrounding muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. This is the responsibility of trained medical personnel.
  • To help prevent shock, lay the victim flat, then elevate the feet about 12 inches. Cover the victim with a coat or blanket. Do not move the victim if you suspect a head, back, or leg injury.
  • Get medical help.

Do Not:

  • DO NOT move the victim unless the injured area is completely immobilized.
  • DO NOT move the victim if there is a chance of a neck injury.
  • DO NOT move the victim with an injured hip, pelvis, or upper leg unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must move the victim immediately, drag him or her by the clothing.
  • DO NOT attempt to straighten a misshapen bone or joint or to change its position.
  • DO NOT test a misshapen bone or joint for loss of function.
  • DO NOT give the victim anything by mouth.

Call for medical assistance immediately if:

  • The victim has a dislocation, broken bone, or severe bleeding.
  • You cannot completely immobilize the injury at the scene by yourself.

A medical doctor should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of the injury.

When treated properly, most dislocated joints will return to normal function in several weeks with rest and rehabilitation. Some joints, like the shoulder and kneecap, are at an increased risk of recurrent dislocations. Surgery may be necessary if you have weak ligaments and the joint tends to dislocate frequently.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 03, 2015

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