If the bones, which should be next to each other, are disconnected so that the joint is no longer functioning, we are talking about a dislocation. The cause is usually a severe injury that affects the joint with such force that it can torn the ligaments. In addition to bones dissection, severe damages to joint capsule, muscles, blood vessels and nerves are also possible. The force which causes dislocation may sometimes also cause a fracture of one or both of the affected bones.
Dislocations that are not a consequence of injury can be inherent or congenital, and may also occur as a complication in rheumatoid arthritis. After all, dislocation can happen repeatedly – without obvious cause – in a person whose wrist is weakened by an earlier injury. Especially prone to such ”spontaneous” dislocations are shoulders and jaws.
The twisted joint is deformed, extremely painful, it swells fast, changes color and becomes immobile. Other possible symptoms depend on the extent of damage to surrounding tissues.
Dislocation is not as common as other injuries to the muscles, bones and joints. In the UK, annually only 1 person out of 2500 has this problem.
Dislocation of the vertebrae can damage the entire spinal cord and sometimes cause paralysis of the body below the level of injury. Likewise, twisting of the shoulder or hip can damage the main nerves in the affected hand or leg and cause paralysis. In addition, although the situation is less serious in this case, arthroses may develop in each joint.
What to do?
Do not let anyone to adjust your joints if you are not sure that the person knows the correct procedure; namely, it is possible that dislocation is followed by a breakage or some other damage, so a faulty procedure can only aggravate the condition. Protect the injured spot with the best available remedy, and immediately contact your doctor or hospital. In the meantime, do not eat or drink anything, as you might recieve general anesthesia for repositioning, i.e. setting your wrists to a normal position. Your doctor will also look at the X-ray of the joint and the surrounding area to assess the extent of the damage.
Self-help: in most situations no self-help is possible, although in uncomplicated cases, an anesthetic repository can be performed, provided that it has not been more than a few minutes and that the person who is doing repositioning of the joint knows how to do it. For example, people who suffer from recurrent spontaneous twistings often learn how to reposition their joint by themsleves. But, in such cases, you should immediately go to the doctor for possible serious injury.
Professional help: 15 to 30 minutes after the dislocation, the joint is usually so swollen and hurts that the repositioning must be performed under general anesthesia. After repositioning – and if there was no damage to the blood vessels, nerves and bones – the joint is immobilized and placed in splint that you will carry for two to three weeks to cure the tissue. When you start using your joint again, keep the physiotherapist’s instructions. Sometimes, the reposition can only be performed successfully with the operative procedure. Additionally, if one of your joints has been severely weakened due to repeated dislocation, the doctor will advise you on the operation to clamp the ligaments that bind the neighboring bones.