The Most Common Types of Dislocations | Symptoms and Treatment
Though 21st-century motor vehicles incorporate many technological innovations to minimize the risk of injury in a crash, the impact of two vehicles still creates a substantial amount of force and can cause serious damage, often to your joints. Consider that a 160-pound passenger in a car traveling at just 30 miles per hour feels nearly 2.5 tons of force (30 gs) on his or her body when the vehicle impacts a stationary object—and that’s if the person is wearing a seatbelt. The force of the impact is five times greater without a seatbelt.
Experiencing such force as you collide with a dashboard or experience whiplash often dislocates joints, most commonly the shoulder or elbows. Other joints dislocated during car crashes include hips, knees, ankles, wrist, jaw, and even your spine. One frequent cause of shoulder dislocation is improper positioning of a seatbelt.
Symptoms of a Dislocated Joint
With a dislocated joint, the connection between two bones is compromised. In the shoulder or hip joint, the ball comes out of the socket. With a hinge joint, such as the elbow or knee, the dislocation simply knocks one of the bones out of its normal position. Among the telltale signs of a dislocated joint are:
- limited or no range of motion,
- loss of muscle strength,
- instability at the joint,
- visible deformity of the joint (looking distended, with adjacent body parts pointing the wrong way),
- substantial pain that won’t subside, and
- redness or bruising at the joint.
Treatment Options for a Dislocated Joint
Your doctor may be able to diagnose a dislocation visually but also may take an X-ray or MRI. If possible, the preferred treatment is reduction, where gentle maneuvers are used to return bones to their normal positions. Once that’s accomplished, you are likely to be prescribed a period of rest, so swelling can abate and any damage to muscles, tendons, or ligaments can heal.
If doctors cannot move bones back to their normal position, you may require a surgical procedure. Surgery also might be necessary if you have multiple dislocations. In addition, you may need physical therapy or rehabilitation to return to full health.