Emergency advice

Dislocated joint:

  1. Don’t try to put it back.
  2. Keep the joint comfortable with a bandage or sling.
  3. Take or send the casualty to hospital.
  4. Treat for shock.

What are dislocated joints?

A dislocated joint happens when bones are partly or completely pulled out of their normal position. Joints can dislocate when a strong force wrenches or pulls the bone into an abnormal position. 

Signs and symptoms

Someone with a dislocated joint may: 

  • complain of a severe, sickening pain 
  • be unable to move the joint 
  • have swelling and bruising around the joint and it may look shorter, bent or deformed.

What to do

  1. Advise the casualty to stay still. Help them to support their dislocated joint in the most comfortable position.

    • Do not try to put the dislocated bone back into its socket, as this may cause further injury.
  2. Stop the joint from moving.

    • If you think they have dislocated their shoulder or elbow, support the injured arm using a sling. To give extra support, tie a broad-fold bandage (wide bandage) around the chest and the sling. If a hand or arm is injured, remove any rings or watches in case of swelling.
    • If you think they have dislocated their ankle, knee or hip joint, support the injured leg using padding and broad-fold bandages.
  3. Send the casualty to hospital. Call 999 or 112 for emergency help if you can’t take them yourself.

  4. While waiting for help, treat for shock if necessary. Monitor their level of response.

    • Do not raise an injured leg. Only raise the uninjured leg.
  5. Check the circulation beyond any bandages every 10 minutes and loosen if necessary.

Related first aid advice

How to make an arm sling

An arm sling holds the forearm in a raised or horizontal position and can support an injured upper arm, forearm and wrist. The sling is also a useful visual warning to others that someone is injured.

Shock

Shock - not to be confused with emotional shock – is a life-threatening condition. It happens when the body isn’t getting enough oxygen to the vital organs. Find out what to look for and what to do.

When to call an ambulance

At some point in their life, most people will witness or be involved in an accident or medical emergency. Knowing what to do and when you should call the emergency services can potentially save lives.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support