When one of two bones that meet at a joint is knocked out of place, a dislocation has occurred. Usually caused by a blunt force or impact to a joint area, a dislocation can commonly be confused with a bone break due to the pain and relative symptoms. A bone that has been knocked out of its joint or socket can lead to ligament and nerve damage if not treated immediately. While any bone that is connected to a joint can become dislocated, common dislocations include shoulders, hips and fingers.
The first and foremost symptom of a dislocated bone is the inability or refusal to use it. A dislocated finger will restrict hand movement as that finger will not work, while shoulder and hip dislocations would constrict or eliminate movement of the arm and leg, respectively. Additionally, dislocations are usually accompanied by a great deal of pain and varied bruising. Dislocations will also be visibly out of joint or socket as the bone will be protruding and causing the skin around it to stretch and bulge.
In any case of dislocation, it is important to receive medical treatment immediately. If the accident and dislocation does not affect the leg or the hip, then it is safe to move the victim, so long as no additional pressure or weight is added to the injury. In cases of shoulder or elbow dislocation, it is wise to use a splint or support to keep the bone from slipping further out of the joint by keeping it in the same position that it was in when the dislocation occurred.
However, if the dislocation occurs in the leg or the hip and, most importantly, eliminates the ability to walk, then the handling of the victim and the injury should be left to a trained professional. In cases of a potentially fatal accident, emergency medical professionals should be contacted immediately to handle all movement and treatment. Medical professionals should also be contacted immediately if the bone has broken the skin.
At no point should the victim attempt to reset the dislocated bone on his or her own, or with the help of an untrained person, as it could worsen the injury and damage the surrounding ligaments, tendons and muscles. In the case that a person with a life-threatening injury must be moved to avoid further injuries, use the person’s clothing as a sliding mechanism until the victim is out of harm’s way. Do not use the person’s body to grip as it could further the injury.
As with most injuries, if the skin has been broken but the wound does not demand professional assistance, use running water to clean the wound and stave off infection, and apply ice to any swollen areas to reduce inflammation. In cases of serious dislocation, there is a greater potential for shock. It is important for anyone treating the victim to keep the situation calm and avoid shock.
When dealing with injuries caused by accidents, it is impossible to predict the future. However, the risk of injury can be greatly reduced with proper precautions and safety measures. When playing sports, it is important to use all equipment in the manner of which it was intended. Around the house and at work, the key to safety is awareness.