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




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.



Dislocations fact sheet

DRSABCD poster

Related advice


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.


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.

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