How to Treat Dislocations: First Aid Treatment

A dislocation occurs when a bone moves out of the correct position at a joint. These injuries can be very painful, as anyone who has experienced a dislocated joint will know! Common sites for dislocations include the shoulder, wrist, and fingers. A common cause of a dislocated joint is excessive force being applied to the joint (for example, following a fall). A dislocation injury may be accompanied by a fracture, and it is difficult to assess for a fracture. Therefore, most victims require an X-ray before attempting to reduce the bone back into the joint. It is important that you do not attempt to relocate, or reduce, a dislocated joint; the victim requires assessment by a medical professional. Otherwise, you risk causing further permanent damage to the bone, nerves, or blood vessels. Your main aim is to support the joint in the position found and prevent further movement of the injured area.

A dislocation injury may cause damage to the ligaments that support a joint. This can make the joint unstable and the victim more prone to recurrent dislocations. Physical therapy or, in some cases, surgery may be required to fix and strengthen the ligaments to prevent dislocations from occurring. A victim who has suffered a dislocation injury should seek advice from a medical professional or physiotherapist before returning to any athletic activity, especially contact sports.

Signs and Symptoms of a Dislocation

The signs and symptoms of a dislocation are similar to those of a fracture:

◾ Pain

◾ Loss of movement

◾ Angulation of the limb

◾ Swelling

◾ Tenderness

◾ Irregularity

◾ Crepitus (a cracking or grating sound)

The abnormal angulation of a limb may be more prominent in a dislocation injury. You should compare the affected limb with the unaffected side of the body to assess for angulation and irregularity.

First Aid Treatment for a Dislocated Joint

1. Support the limb in the position found; do not attempt to reduce the dislocation.

2. Apply padding around the injury.

3. Check for signs of circulation beyond the injury.

4. If the victim has dislocated his shoulder, elbow, or wrist, then an arm sling may be useful to support the injury.

5. Seek medical assistance or call EMS.

Shoulder Dislocation Following a Seizure

A victim having a major seizure is at risk of a shoulder dislocation due to excessive muscle contractions. Do not attempt to restrain a victim having a seizure in order to prevent a dislocation. You are likely to cause injury to yourself or the victim and worsen the situation.