A dislocation occurs when a joint connecting two bones becomes separated – an injury requiring immediate medical attention.

Dislocations can happen during contact sports as well as activities associated with excessive stretching or falls. The hand is most often dislocated, although it can also occur in the shoulder. Other dislocations are extremely rare.

Symptoms can include pain and swelling, difficulty using the joint and even a visible deformity at the site of injury.

Although similar to a broken bone, rehabilitation takes longer.

How is a dislocation treated?

Usually the condition is diagnosed with an imaging tool like an X-ray or MRI, which shows the soft tissues in the body. If there has been damage to surrounding tissue, nerves or ligaments, surgery might be required.

A doctor may put the joint back into place. Typically, it is then immobilized with a cast for several weeks.

Once the joint is stabilized, the physical therapist works with the patient to strengthen the muscle surrounding the joint and to increase range of motion. Treatment will continue after the cast is removed to allow for complete recovery.