Dislocation: First aid
Medically reviewed on March 9, 2018
A dislocation is an injury in which the ends of your bones are forced from their normal positions. The cause is usually trauma resulting from a fall, an auto accident, or a collision during contact or high-speed sports.
Dislocation usually involves the body's larger joints. In adults, the most common site of the injury is the shoulder. In children, it's the elbow. Your thumb and fingers also are vulnerable if forcibly bent the wrong way.
The injury will temporarily deform and immobilize your joint and may result in sudden and severe pain and swelling. A dislocation requires prompt medical attention to return your bones to their proper positions.
If you believe you have dislocated a joint:
- Don't delay medical care. Get medical help immediately.
- Don't move the joint. Until you receive help, splint the affected joint into its fixed position. Don't try to move a dislocated joint or force it back into place. This can damage the joint and its surrounding muscles, ligaments, nerves or blood vessels.
- Put ice on the injured joint. This can help reduce swelling by controlling internal bleeding and the buildup of fluids in and around the injured joint.