When to Go to Urgent Care for a Dislocated Joint

Mar 12, 2024
When to Go to Urgent Care for a Dislocated Joint
Joints are essential parts of the body for almost every movement we make — and dislocating them can be painful and make moving more difficult. When is a dislocation bad enough to require urgent care? Read on to find out.

When we make even the most basic of movements, we’re using a vast array of different body parts. The brain controls what the part of the body is doing, the nerves carry those instructions where they need to go, and muscles and bones execute the action. 

Joints are an intersection of bones that use musculoskeletal tissue like ligaments, tendons, bursa, and muscles to provide flexibility, stability, and basic movements like chewing, talking, bending your limbs, and articulating with your wrists, ankles, and digits.

We use our joints all the time, and with that use comes a higher risk of injury, especially through extended physical activity, repetitive motion, or an accident like falling. Dislocations are a common injury where a joint becomes misaligned. 

To determine when to go to urgent care for a dislocation, let’s examine the basics of the injury, what often causes it, and what signs indicate medical attention.

If you live in the Fort Worth, Texas area and you think you have a dislocation, Dr. Joseph Daniels and his staff at Southwest Orthopedic Associates can help you safely get the joint back into place.

Dislocated joint basics

Dislocation is the term for any kind of joint being pushed or knocked out of place, and there are a couple of different types of this injury: subluxation and luxation. Subluxation is a partial dislocation, where the bones still connect, just not in a way natural for the joint; and luxation is a complete dislocation where the bones and tissue of the joint are completely out of place. 

The tricky part of dealing with this type of injury is that subluxations can be mild, and you may not realize the joint is actually misaligned as a result. Not getting the treatment when needed can make the injury worse.

Common causes

Most often, dislocations result from the joint’s trauma of impact with another person or an object, such as in accidents, falls, or sports injuries. If any of these incidents hit a joint hard enough, they can cause the bone to move out of the joint, leaving it less stable and prone to further injury. 

Common factors that increase your chances of a dislocation include intense physical activity (such as playing contact sports), getting older (the risk increases in people over 65), and having medical conditions that affect joints (illnesses like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome).

Signs you need urgent care

This sort of injury compromises the ligaments, muscles, and tendons of a joint, and the resulting instability can make using that joint more difficult or impossible depending on the damage. Whether it’s a partial or complete dislocation, look for these signs that you need medical treatment from urgent care:


The extent of the damage will determine how much pain you experience, ranging from mild to severe, but if you’re having this pain, along with swelling and bruising that wasn’t present previously, you should seek medical attention.

Stability issues

A joint out of place will work less effectively than you need it to, and if it’s a weight-bearing joint — like your hip, knee, or ankle — that can lead to problems with stability. Putting pressure on it can make things worse.

Mobility issues

Similar to the points made above, damage to joints can also compromise how you move them, so swelling, bruising, pain, and the severity of the dislocation can determine how limited your mobility in the joint is.

Visual cues

If the subluxation or luxation is bad enough, a dislocated bone may show under the skin, which will need medical attention as soon as possible. It may also be accompanied by pain, bruising, and swelling.

If you’re showing any of these signs, medical help is your best course of action, and we’re here to help. So, if you need to mend a dislocated joint, schedule an appointment at our urgent care facilities — or walk in during normal business hours — to get help and get better.