Dislocation Definition and Meaning

A dislocation, also known colloquially as a dislocation or dislocation , is an injury to the joints that usually occurs as a result of a fall or sudden overload. This results in a mostly complete loss of contact between the bones forming the joint. The shoulder and elbow joints are particularly frequently affected.

What is dislocation?

Doctors understand a dislocation as an injury to the joints in which the joint-forming bone ends usually completely lose the contact that would otherwise exist with each other (this is called dislocation). See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Dislocation.

This condition is also commonly referred to as dislocation or dislocation of the respective joint. This is a mostly temporary misalignment of the bones that needs to be treated medically. In principle, almost all joints in the body can be affected by a dislocation.

However, dislocations of the shoulder, elbow and knee joints are particularly common. Dislocated finger or jaw joints are also not uncommon. A dislocation is a serious injury to the affected joint and can lead to fractures, especially during growth.


In most cases, the causes of a dislocation lie in an indirect force on the affected joint. This can include a fall on the arm/shoulder.

So-called overstretching injuries can also occur in some sports, which result in a dislocation of the finger joints, for example. A jerky and violent pulling on fingers, arms or legs can also cause a joint to be injured accordingly.

If a joint has already been affected by a dislocation several times, it may remain unstable compared to other joints – as a result, so-called habitual dislocations occasionally occur even without the use of force.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A dislocation usually causes severe pain. The drifting apart of the bone ends can cause damage to the surrounding ligaments, vessels, nerves and muscles. As a result, the ability to move is normally also greatly reduced, and a bruise often develops. Because of the pain and mechanical limitation, patients hold the affected limb in a relieving posture.

If nerve injuries occur as a result of the dislocation, this can lead to paresthesia or paralysis in other parts of the body. For example, tingling in the fingers or numbness in the toes is possible. The exact effects of the dislocation depend primarily on where it is located and which joints are involved. The joint socket is perceived by those affected and by the doctor as “empty”.

Springing of the joint can usually be detected. The external signs are accompanied by reddening of the affected area and, occasionally, visible deformities in the surrounding regions. Furthermore, a dislocation can lead to hematomas or bruises. This often results in circulatory disorders, skin changes and other complaints. Symptoms of a dislocation can vary widely, depending on where the dislocation is located and whether nerves, ligaments, or muscles are injured.

Diagnosis & History

A dislocation can often be diagnosed by the doctor treating you based on the existing optical deformation of the affected joint. The joint head often stands out clearly. Swelling and bruising may occur.

A dislocation is usually accompanied by pain, which leads to a protective posture. If the symptoms are not clear, an X-ray of the respective body region can help with the diagnosis.

If a dislocation remains untreated, it can lead to permanent joint instability and the already mentioned habitual dislocations or even more frequent fractures in the area of ​​the joints. Osteoarthritis or a permanent misalignment of the joint threatens as a long-term consequence .


First and foremost, a dislocation leads to relatively severe pain in the joints. The joints themselves are swollen and may also bruise. As a rule, the further course of this complaint depends heavily on the cause of the dislocation and the affected area, so that a general course of the disease cannot be predicted. In many cases, the joint surfaces are in the wrong position after the dislocation, resulting in restrictions in the patient’s movement and everyday life.

Diagnosing the dislocation is usually relatively easy and quick because the joint is visibly protruding. Therefore, an early treatment of this complaint is possible. However, this does not lead to self-healing. If the dislocation is not treated properly, arthrosis can develop.

It is not uncommon for nerves to be trapped as a result of the dislocation, so that the patients suffer from paralysis or other sensory disturbances and are thus restricted in everyday life. The treatment takes place through a surgical procedure and leads to success in most cases. There are no complications. The life expectancy of the patient is also not affected by the dislocation.

When should you go to the doctor?

Severe pain in the area of ​​bones and joints must be clarified immediately. Affected people should consult their doctor if the symptoms become acute and rapidly worsen. If severe pain or even a fracture occurs as a result of a fall or a sports injury, the person concerned must be taken to a hospital. First aid must first be given to the affected part of the body, ideally by a sports doctor or a first aider with appropriate first aid training. Persons with congenital weaknesses in the connective tissue or overextensible ligament structures suffer dislocations particularly quickly.

Dislocations also occur more often in old age and in connection with arthrosis or rheumatic diseases. The severe overstretching of ligaments and joints permanently weakens the joint, which is why caution is required even after recovery. If you suspect a renewed dislocation, your family doctor must be informed immediately. In addition to the general practitioner, you can go to the orthopaedist, chiropractor or sports doctor if you have a dislocation. If the symptoms are severe, physiotherapeutic treatment is necessary.

Treatment & Therapy

If the doctor treating you has diagnosed a dislocation, he can initiate appropriate treatment. First and foremost, the misalignment of the joint-forming bones must be corrected.

Colloquially, this process is also referred to as “reset”. It should only be performed by a professional, as excessive force or a jerky, incorrect movement can damage the joint itself or surrounding nerves or vessels. Under certain circumstances, this not painless procedure must be performed under anesthesia.

The affected joint should then be immobilized. An X-ray provides information on whether the reposition (setting) was successful and whether there are any other injuries. If the joint cannot be brought back to its original position as expected, an operation must be carried out to correct this. Surgery is often necessary even if the dislocation is accompanied by a fracture.

Following a dislocation, the joint should not be put under excessive strain for several weeks or even months. However, complete immobilization over a longer period of time is not advisable. If the injury occurred during sport, it is often necessary to temporarily stop training to ensure full restoration of joint stability. Appropriate physiotherapy exercises can support the healing process.

Outlook & Forecast

Basically, the dislocation is easily treatable. Therefore, most patients receive a favorable prognosis. With a well-established treatment plan and the cooperation of the person concerned, freedom from symptoms can usually be documented after a few months. It is important that medical treatment is sought and that no excessive stress is placed on the affected joint during the healing process.

Since the disorder is a dislocation of a joint, orthopedic and physiotherapeutic treatment should be used. Otherwise there is a risk of lifelong impairments and a restriction of natural movement possibilities. Consequential disorders often occur, which are discovered and cured during treatment. The prognosis for freedom from symptoms becomes less favorable if permanent damage to the joint has occurred or if a dislocation has occurred repeatedly in the course of life. In these cases, changes must take place in the organization of everyday or professional life, since the possibilities for movement are restricted and physical performance can no longer be fully provided.

If an operation is carried out, this is associated with the usual risks and side effects. If there are complications during the operation or the healing process, the prognosis often worsens. In addition, the risk of secondary diseases increases, since an increase in emotional stress can be observed.


Since a dislocation usually occurs as a result of acute violence, it is difficult to prevent. However, if there is already a known susceptibility to certain joints, it is advisable not to put excessive strain on them. If a dislocation occurs, a doctor should be consulted immediately. This is the only way to ensure that the important joint stability can be completely restored after the traumatic injury.


A dislocation primarily leads to severe pain in the joints, which can sometimes persist even after the acute treatment. Therefore, aftercare is aimed at relieving this pain, which is sometimes initially solved with medication. In addition, those affected should take it easy and avoid physical exertion as far as possible. The course of the disease cannot be predicted, as the symptoms of a dislocation depend on the cause of the dislocation. So it may be that some have even more after-effects than others. Help and support from family members is needed to cope with everyday things. In most cases, the dislocation can be treated successfully. Life expectancy is not shortened by the dislocation.

You can do that yourself

Self-help measures in connection with a dislocation consist of sparing the affected joint and, if necessary, initiating pain-relieving measures. So it is advisable for those affected to follow the doctor’s instructions and allow the joint to rest. In fact, the best self-help measure when a dislocation is present is resting the area for several weeks after it has been relocated.

In the event of an acute dislocation, it is not advisable for a layperson to try to put it back together. There are many ways of causing damage to the joint or surrounding tissue. Exceptions are always dislocated kneecaps: These can often be repositioned yourself after professional instruction.

All in all, any dislocation that occurs should be treated quickly with cooling if pain and swelling occur. To avoid further swelling, an attempt should be made to elevate or hold the affected area. The coolant must not be in direct contact with the skin. It also makes sense to fix the dislocated area with a makeshift bandage or something similar until the medical examination and treatment. A chronic dislocation in joints cannot be corrected by self-help measures. Only painkillers can be used here.


You may also like...