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Dislocation refers to a condition where one or both of the bones that make up a joint has been displaced from where it usually is to somewhere where it shouldn't be. This is a problem because normal human anatomical function relies on joints and bones being arranged in a specific manner and the disruption of this arrangement causes issues like decreased function, pain, and disability. Wherever two bones meet, there is a joint, and many of these joints are points at which bones produce movement by bending, twisting, or rotating in place. Every single joint in the human body has the potential of being dislocated, with some being easier to dislocate than others depending on how force is applied and where it is directed.

Joints are stabilised by five factors: the shape of the bones that make up the joint, the shape of the cartilage within the joint, the ligaments that scaffold and attach the bones together, the muscles that cross over the joint, and the capsule that wraps around and contains the joint. Dislocation is caused by a failure of one or more of these factors in response to external force. Because of this, joint dislocations are nearly always accompanied by pain and discomfort, which may be minimal due to the effect of adrenaline, or so debilitating that it requires hospitalisation. Because joint dislocation affects multiple elements of the joint, there may be bony damage as well. This bony damage may become chronic with multiple and repeated dislocations such as those that occur to the shoulder and the jaw. 

Dislocations are managed by resetting the joint first. This can be just as painful as the dislocation in some cases and so may be done under anaesthetic. Imaging is usually taken to assess the presence or absence of any other damage, and the limb may be placed in a protective garment or cast to assist in healing. Surgery may be undertaken in the case of severe dislocations or when joint instability has the potential to cause further injury. After surgery, or if surgery is not performed, dislocations are reviewed by either a physiotherapist or an orthopaedic doctor to ensure appropriate alignment of the bone.

Following this, dislocations are typically managed using exercise and manual therapy. Dislocation is due to the failure of one of the five factors that give rise to joint stability, and so the exercises that are performed will address the identified structural failure. Depending on the nature of the dislocation, or the number of times that joint has been dislocated, treatment may take time to ensure appropriate management. 

Management of your discomfort depends on its causative factors, how it feels and changes during the day, what makes it better and worse, and the length of time you have been experiencing that pain. All of these factors will be addressed in your initial assessment, which is the first step toward managing and minimising any pain or discomfort. The treatment you receive will be tailored to address the specific cause of your discomfort, and will focus on minimising pain, maximising your ability to move pain-free, and developing a plan to minimise the risk of a flare-up in the future.

At Atlas Physio, we will provide you with education, structured management, and ongoing monitoring of your pain both in-clinic and out. Contact us to arrange an assessment, and to take the first step on a course of corrective care today.

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