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A dislocated joint can be as painful as a broken bone until the joint is back in place. In most cases a joint will become dislocated when the bone ends are knocked or pulled out of position. Anytime your joint suddenly feels like it will not work properly, it could be dislocated. When moving the joint or putting weight on it is painful or if the joint begins to swell, it is dislocated. In many cases the limb or digit will look different from its counterpart or may have a lump or distorted angle to it.

The two areas where dislocation occurs most often are the jaw and shoulder. But any joint is susceptible to dislocation. Fingers, toes, ankles, wrist, elbows, hips and even joints between the vertebrae can go out. When this happens you should seek medical help immediately. The sooner you get treatment the lower the risk. Treat a dislocation in the same way you would a broken bone. Keep the person comfortable but do not try to reposition the joint or straighten the limb or digit. Steps to remedy a dislocated joint should only be taken by a professional who is guided by X-rays.

Since in most cases it takes a considerable blow to dislocate a joint, other injuries could be present. There could be tearing or over stretching of the ligaments that hold the joint in position, damage to the joint capsule which is the surrounding membrane, crushed muscles, nerves and blood vessels. At times there will even be a broken or chipped bone. If it will take a while to reach medical help you should apply ice packs to relieve the swelling and pain. Do not give the person anything to drink or eat since depending on the extent of swelling and pain, anesthesia could be required when they reach the hospital. In some cases a joint has been known to pop back by itself and the relief is so great that people are tempted to consider the injury healed. But this is most certainly not the case. Any damaged tissues or ligaments will require weeks to heal after a joint is dislocated. Returning to your normal activities can cause swelling and pain to occur in the joint. You could even risk permanent damage, reoccurring dislocations or the beginning of arthritis in the joints if the dislocation is not properly treated.

Occasionally a dislocation will occur for no apparent reason. Even a yawn that is too wide can dislocate a jaw or a knee can pop out unexpectedly. During ordinary activity a shoulder can dislocate. In these cases there is usually an underlying reason such as a previous injury or abnormally shaped joint. Small children will often suffer what is literally called a pulled elbow. Pulling a child along by the arm can create such a dislocation, as can yanking a child off the ground by one arm. But since this type of dislocation is only partial it can be slipped back into place by your doctor who will use a simple maneuver right in his office. Always be very careful when playing with young children. Although they tend to give an appearance of being more flexible than an adult, their bones and joints can not necessarily take more strain than an adults. Try to be conscious when playing with children of your size and strength as compared to theirs.