How to treat dislocations

If this is an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

What is a dislocation?

It can be difficult to tell whether an injury is a fracture, dislocation, sprain or strain. If in doubt, always treat as a fracture.

DO NOT try to force a broken or dislocated bone back into place.

A dislocation is where a bone has been displaced from its normal position at a joint.

This guide is regularly updated and aligns with the current edition of Australian First Aid (4th edition, 7/2011)

Signs and Symptoms

 

  • Pain at or near the site of the injury
  • Difficulty or inability to move the joint
  • Abnormal mobility of the limb
  • Loss of power
  • Deformity (such as an abnormal lump or depression)
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Discolouration and bruising

 

What to do

Follow DRSABCD.

 

 

Rest and support the limb using soft padding and bandages.

  • For a shoulder injury, support the arm as comfortably as possible.
  • For a wrist injury, support the wrist in a sling.

Apply a cold pack directly over the injured joint, if possible.

 

Seek medical aid.

 

Check circulation of the limb. If circulation is absent, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Massage the limb gently to try to restore circulation.

 

Resources

Dislocations fact sheet

DRSABCD poster

Related advice

Fractures

It can be difficult to tell whether an injury is a fracture, dislocation, sprain or strain. If in doubt, always treat it as a fracture. We’ve put together a handy first aid guide for fractures.

Sprains and strains

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments and capsule at a joint in the body. A strain is an injury to muscles or tendons.

Shock

Any health condition or trauma can cause shock, and it is a life-threatening condition. It’s important to treat the injury or illness causing the shock, as well as the shock itself.

Courses that teach this skill

✮ Most Popular Course

Provide First Aid


For both those in workplaces and members of the public who would like a comprehensive first aid course.


1 day face-to-face, Assessment Only, and our 100% online options available.

✮ Popular Course

CPR


For those wanting to learn CPR, maintain their competence, or refresh their existing skills.


 
2 hour face-to-face plus pre-learning, Assessment Only and our 100% online course options available.
✮ Popular Course

Occupational First Aid


For those in high-risk work environments, high-risk remote locations, or undertaking high-risk work activities such as operating heavy machinery.

3.5 and 4.5 day face-to-face with
pre-learning, and our Assessment Only course options available.

Equipment used