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What’s the difference between broken bones, dislocations and sprains/strains?

If you’ve ever experienced one or all of these medical situations, you may be aware of their individual telltale signs. However, there are many times when it may be difficult to determine if a bone is broken or if you have a sprain or strain. Broken bones, dislocations and sprains/strains may have similar symptoms such as soreness, swelling and inability to function as you normally would with that afflicted body part. However, these are completely different injuries that require urgent care and specific attention.

While breaks can happen at the end of a bone, on a joint or somewhere in between, dislocations can occur only at joints. A dislocation is an injury that causes the ends of your bones out of position within a joint.

The cause is often a fall or a blow, sometimes from playing a contact sport. You can dislocate your ankles, knees, shoulders, hips, elbows and jaw. You can also dislocate your finger and toe joints. Dislocated joints often are swollen, very painful and visibly out of place. You may not be able to move it.

A dislocated joint is an urgency. If you have one, you should visit a Benchmark Urgent & Family Care near you.


Symptoms of a dislocated bone may include swelling, bruising and pain. When a dislocation occurs, you’ll often be able to see the bone “out of place.” Once you come to the Benchmark Urgent & Family Care our experienced physicians will be able to assess the severity of your dislocated bone and treat it accordingly.

Don’t hesitate when it comes to dislocated bones. Not only is a dislocation generally very painful, but it can also cause further damage to nerves or tendons if not addressed immediately. Your nearest Benchmark Urgent & Family Care is equipped to care for you and treat your dislocation in the best way possible in the least amount of time.


Treatment depends on which joint you dislocate and the severity of the injury. It might include manipulations to reposition your bones, medicine, a splint or sling, and rehabilitation. When properly repositioned, a joint will usually function and move normally again in a few weeks. Once you dislocate a shoulder or kneecap, you are more likely to dislocate it again. Wearing protective gear during sports may help prevent dislocations.

Dislocation treatment may include re-positioning the bone in the joint, a prescription for painkillers or anti-inflammatories, a sling or a splint, and possible rehabilitation treatment. If your dislocation is severe, it may take longer than the usual 2–3 weeks to return to full movement. After dislocating a bone, however, be wary as that bone is more prone to dislocation in the future. Many athletes who dislocate knees or ankles may wear special supports or elastic braces in the future to prevent additional dislocations.