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Home Health Library Dislocation: First aid

Dislocation: First aid

What first-aid steps to take for dislocation of a joint.


A dislocation is an injury that forces the bones in a joint out of position. The cause is usually a fall, a car accident or an injury during contact sports.

Dislocation mostly involves the body's larger joints. The most common site of injury is the shoulder. For young children, the elbow is a common site. Smaller joints, such as the thumbs and fingers, also can be dislocated if bent the wrong way with force.


The injury will deform the joint and make it hard to move. Dislocation might cause sudden and severe pain and swelling. A dislocation needs prompt medical attention to put the bones back in place.


If you believe you have dislocated a joint:

  1. Don't put off medical care. Get medical help as soon as you can.
  2. Don't move the joint. Until you get help, use a splint to keep the affected joint from moving. Don't try to move a dislocated joint or force it back into place. This can damage the joint and the muscles, ligaments, nerves or blood vessels around it.
  3. Put ice on the injured joint. This can help reduce swelling. Ice can control bleeding inside the body and keep fluids from building up in and around the injured joint.
Last Updated: April 3rd, 2024