Woman with dislocated shoulder pain

Is a Dislocation the same as Subluxation?

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Subluxation is the partial separation or dislocation of a joint. As the result of a fall, sports injury, car accident or even twisting the wrong way, the joint starts to dislocate but the surface doesn’t completely lose contact as in a full dislocation.

But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. Joint subluxations come with pain and swelling around the injured area, an unstable feeling (like it may just give out) and limited mobility. Sometimes people describe a pop or snap sound in the joint at the time of the injury.

How should I treat it?

While complete dislocations often need to be guided back into place, subluxations (as long as the joint remains in alignment) can heal on their own with proper rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflammatory medication (RICE) and a splint or brace for added support and stability.

When should I see my Physiotherapist?

Because subluxations are often one-time occurrences, consulting with a doctor or physiotherapist is an added measure you can take to make sure the joint is healing properly. If you notice that you’re struggling to regain full mobility in the joint, you should get an assessment right away.

However, if subluxation happens more than once, it can cause damage to the ligaments—the strong connective tissues that stabilize joints—resulting in a recurrent injury and even chronic pain. A physiotherapist can work with you to create a treatment plan, which may include exercises to improve strength, motion and mobility in the joint, as well as instruction on taping or bracing techniques you can use to avoid re-injury while playing sports or doing other strenuous physical activity.


Did you hear a pop or a click and things just don’t feel right? Book an assessment with a qualified physiotherapist and start your recovery today.


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