Talk about painful – when a shoulder, elbow, finger, hip or knee becomes dislocated, it doesn’t only hurt, it immobilizes the joint where two bones normally come together.
A dislocation is an injury in which the ends of your bones are forced out of their normal position. It usually occurs as the result of a fall, a hard blow during an automobile accident, or a rough-and-tumble sports injury. You can tell if a bone is dislocated not only because it is intensely painful and the joint is immovable, but also because the joint may be visibly deformed and/or swollen or discolored. After a proper diagnosis, you will need to heal. Here is more on healing from a dislocation.
If you believe you have suffered a dislocation, seek prompt medical attention. The orthopedist may be able to return the bone to the proper position, but to be sure, your doctor may order an X-ray of the affected joint not only to confirm the dislocation but also to look for any broken bones or other joint damage. An MRI might also be in order to help your doctor assess any damage to the soft tissue structures in proximity to the dislocated joint.
Once the dislocation is pinpointed, treatment will be commenced depending on the severity of your injury. This may involve:
· Manual reduction – This method involves gentle manipulation by your doctor to ease your bones back into position. Usually, this doesn’t require a local or general anesthetic, but those options are available if you are in a considerable amount of pain and have a great deal of swelling.
· Immobilization – Once your bones are back in place, your doctor may or may not have you wear a splint or sling for a few weeks, depending on the amount of damage to nerves, blood vessels or supporting tissue.
· Surgical procedure – If your doctor cannot relocate your bones into their normal positions – or if there is nerve, ligament or blood vessel damage – surgery may be required. This may also be necessary in the case of recurring dislocations, notably in your shoulder.
· A rehabilitation program – If immobilization was necessary, you may need to under rehabilitation to restore joint strength and range of motion once your splint or sling is removed.
In terms of what you can do to relieve pain and promote healing after your treatment for a dislocated joint, there are several steps:
· Rest your dislocated joint and avoid any painful movements.
· Apply ice to your injured joint for the first day or two to reduce pain and inflammation. Every few hours, apply a cold pack for about 20 minutes. Then, when the pain and inflammation diminish, switch to hot packs or a heating pad to help relax sore muscles. Again, limit your heat applications to just 20 minutes at a time. (Remember, never apply ice directly to the skin; always wrap in a towel or cloth.)
· Take over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), to help relieve any pain and reduce swelling and inflammation.
· After a few days, try some gentle exercise as recommended by your doctor or physical therapist to maintain the range of motion in your affected joint.
· Take advantage of physical therapy if your doctor recommends it. Who knows better than a physical therapist as to the best, most effective means to get you back on track?
Bone dislocations may be painful, but they are relatively easy to correct with the proper orthopedic care. If you experience this or any kind of joint pain, don’t hesitate to call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 and schedule an immediate appointment.