First Aid: Dislocations

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First Aid

A dislocation is when two connected bones become separated. Dislocations are caused by falls and hard impacts, such as in sports injuries, and are more common in teens than young children. These injuries require emergency medical care to avoid further damage.

Signs and Symptoms

A joint is where two or more bones come together. A joint may be dislocated if it is:

  • swollen
  • bruised or red
  • painful
  • difficult to move
  • out of place

What to Do

If you think your child has a dislocation, seek emergency medical care or call 911. Until care is received, do the following:

  • Leave the joint alone. Attempting to move or jam a dislocated bone back in can damage blood vessels, muscles, ligaments, and nerves.
  • Apply an ice pack. Ice can ease swelling and pain in and around the joint.
  • Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain.

Think Prevention!

  • Make sure kids wear the appropriate safety gear during sports activities.
  • Supervise children when they're playing — a hard fall can happen anywhere, anytime.
  • Avoid tugging hard on a young child's arm or shoulder, which can cause injury or dislocation.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014



Related Resources

OrganizationNational SAFE KIDS Campaign The National SAFE KIDS Campaign offers information about car seats, crib safety, fact sheets, and links to other health- and safety-oriented sites.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.
Web SiteChildren's Safety Network Made up of several resource centers funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Children's Safety Network works to reduce injuries and prevent violence for children and adolescents.
OrganizationAmerican Sports Medicine Institute The mission of ASMI is to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education.


Related Articles

A to Z: Dislocation, Shoulder A shoulder dislocation causes the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) to slip out of its normal position in the shoulder socket.
A to Z: Dislocation, Finger A dislocation is when the bones in a joint slip out of their normal position. A finger dislocation may happen from a fall, blow, or sports injury, especially if the finger is bent back or jammed.
Bones, Muscles, and Joints Without bones, muscles, and joints, we couldn't stand, walk, run, or even sit. The musculoskeletal system supports our bodies, protects our organs from injury, and enables movement.
A to Z: Patellar Dislocation Patellar dislocation happens when the patella (kneecap) slips out of its normal position.
A to Z: Dislocation, Thumb A dislocation is when the bones in a joint slip out of their normal position. A dislocated thumb may happen from a fall, blow, or sports injury, especially if the thumb is bent back or jammed.
A to Z: Dislocation, Toe A dislocation is when the bones in a joint slip out of their normal position. A dislocated toe may happen from a blow or jamming the toe, such as bumping the toe into furniture or during sports.
Nursemaid's Elbow A quick tug of a toddler's arm can result in a partial dislocation of an elbow ligament, causing an injury known as nursemaid's elbow.
Broken Bones, Sprains, and Strains Broken bones and torn muscles, ligaments, and tendons happen. Find out what to do if your child experiences any breaks, strains, or sprains.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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