Subluxation is the incomplete or partial dislocation of a joint with associated soft tissue injury. This may be caused by instability of the joint, injury or disease, such as osteoarthritis. The pain and related symptoms is present in lesser severity than a full joint dislocation. But, that does not mean that the associated discomfort is any less disruptive to lifestyle. Treatment of subluxation is no different than that of a dislocation. However, a partial dislocation does not require the same healing time, in most cases.
If a joint injury is suspected, X-rays will be ordered to determine the type and extent of dislocation. It is not uncommon for MRI or CT scans to be conducted to get a better image of the injury site.
Once subluxation is diagnosed, treatment focuses on manipulating the joint back into correct position. In closed reduction, anesthesia may be administered and the joint manipulated until the bone is back in its socket. More complex dislocations may require a surgical, open reduction.
After the reduction, an immobilizer is used to keep the joint in place to allow the soft tissue heal properly. A sling is commonly used to immobilize a shoulder subluxation.
Pain control and prevention of re-injury to the joint is the focus until physical therapy begins. Rehabilitation must be supervised by appropriate medical personnel to prevent complications.
A patient being treated for subluxation should follow closely the recommendations of his physician to prevent permanent damage. The patient should also continue with exercises recommended by his physical therapist.