Subluxation: Do I have joint subluxation?

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Subluxation occurs once a joint start to dislocate. Nevertheless, instead of the joint surfaces fully losing contact, a subluxation is considered as a partial dislocation. It is important to note that this is oftentimes the consequence of an acute or traumatic injury. In such circumstances, subluxation of the joint can cause intense pain. It can also result to damage to the normal structures supporting a joint.

Indications of joint subluxation

  • Pain around the affected joint
  • Swollen joint
  • Diminished level of mobility
  • Sensation or feeling of about to give out or instability

Subluxation typically occurs after sustaining an acute injury to the joint. These injuries include vehicular collisions, sports injuries, falls from a height or twisting or reaching movements. Oftentimes, one can hear a popping or snapping of the joint once the injury occurs.

If an individual has loose joints, subluxation can also occur. Those who have generalized joint laxity are at risk for subluxations without injury or trauma. These individuals do not have any symptoms and do not require treatment.

Pain around the affected joint


Prompt treatment of joint subluxation must be started by ensuring that the affected joint is in the correct position. If there is concern that the joint is not in the right position or dislocation is likely, it requires assessment by a doctor to determine if further treatment is required to reposition the joint.

When the alignment of the joint is confirmed, treatment is aimed on minimizing the inflammation of the joint. The steps that can help minimize the inflammation or swelling include the following:

  • The joint must be allowed to rest by using a sling, splint or crutches. Depending on which joint is damaged, it can determine the suitable device to help rest the joint. Reducing movement of the joint and allowing it to rest can allow the inflammation to subside.
  • The application of an ice pack over the injured joint can help minimize the inflammation. Frequent application of cold can alleviate the damaged joint.
  • Elevate the affected joint to reduce the pain and swelling. Raising the joint above the level of the heart and lying down will allow the inflammation to diminish.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications particularly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are useful in reducing the inflammation and pain. Lessening the inflammation can also cut down the pain.
  • Supports such as splints and braces are also useful in controlling excessive movement of the unstable joint. Until a conclusive treatment approach can be started, a brace can be used to stabilize the unstable joint.

Once the acute inflammation diminishes, the long-term treatment plan can be considered. Most cases of subluxations are generally one-time events and the individual can recover full functionality of the joint.

Nevertheless, other injuries can lead to lasting and recurrent issues. If the symptoms of instability seem to persist, it is vital to seek medical care to determine a long-term treatment plan.

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