KidsMD Health Topics

Dislocations

  • Overview

    Our bones and cartilage are connected with flexible bands of fibrous tissue, called ligaments. When extreme force is put on a ligament, the ends of two connected bones can separate, causing a dislocation.

    Ligaments also bind the bones in a joint together. Stress on joint ligaments can lead to dislocation of the joint.

    • The most commonly dislocated joint is the shoulder
    • Dislocations are uncommon in younger children; they are more prone to a fracture
    • Remember, initial treatment of a dislocation includes R.I.C.E. — rest, ice, compression and elevation

  • In-Depth

    What is dislocation?

    Our bones and cartilage are connected with flexible bands of fibrous tissue, called ligaments. When extreme force is put on a ligament, the ends of two connected bones can separate, causing a dislocation. Ligaments also bind the bones in a joint together. Stress on joint ligaments can lead to dislocation of the joint.

    What causes dislocation?

    Dislocations often occur while playing sports, but any extreme force to the ligaments, like during a fall, can cause dislocation.

    Common symptoms include:

    • Pain and swelling in the injured area
    • Difficulty using or moving the injured area in a normal manner
    • Deformity of the dislocated area
    • Warmth, bruising or redness in the injured area
  • Tests

    Your child's physician will do a physical examination. In some cases, diagnostic tests including x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to evaluate the dislocation.

  • It's important that your child's dislocation gets immediate medical attention since fractures can also occur at the same time.

    Initial treatment of a dislocation includes R.I.C.E. — rest, ice, compression and elevation. Sometimes, dislocations reduce spontaneously, meaning the bone ends may go back into place by themselves. However, for those dislocations that don't go back into place, your child's physician will need to place the joint back into its proper position so it will heal.

    We'll do everything possible to make sure your child is comfortable during the procedure, including sedating your child, which will help the muscles around the dislocated joint relax so the joint can be put back into place more easily.

    To promote healing afterwards, we might recommend these options:

    • A splint/cast can help immobilize the dislocated area to promote alignment and healing, while also protecting the injured area from motion
    • Medication may be used for pain control
    • Some kids may need traction, which is the application of force to stretch certain parts of the body in a specific direction. Traction helps stretch the muscles and tendons around the bone ends to reduce the dislocation
    • Your child's activities may be restricted while the dislocation heals
    • Crutches or a wheelchair can enable your child to move around during healing
    • Physical therapy can stretch and strengthen the injured muscles, ligaments and tendons
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