Dislocation: Separating Joints

If a sliding door pops off its track, or a clock gear dislocates from its place, then neither will move nor function properly. A similar issue happens in your body with your joints. A dislocation in your feet impairs their function and makes you unable to participate in sports or other activities.

How it Works

A joint is any place two bones meet. The joints that people typically think about are the ones that move: the ankle, the knee, the elbow, the shoulder, and so on. There are a number of non-moving joints, too. These involve very little to no motion between them. A dislocation is an injury to any joint that forces it out of alignment, whether it’s meant to bend or not. No matter what bones are impacted, it causes pain, deformity, and potentially chronic consequences.

This is an uncommon problem for the lower limbs. The joints in your feet don’t usually pop out of alignment. Traumatic injuries can cause it, however. Dislocations in sports and sudden accidents, like car crashes, are the most common causes. This is most likely to happen with your toes, creating pain in your forefoot. The other place that is susceptible is your midfoot, in the Lisfranc joint complex.

The Overlooked Injury

A Lisfranc injury is rare and easy to miss, but it can actually be quite serious. The Lisfranc joint complex is the part of your foot where the tarsal bones meet the metatarsals. Unlike the neighboring bones, the first and second metatarsals do not have connective tissue holding them together. A sudden twist or a sharp blow, like tripping in sports, can dislocate these two from position, crippling your ability to transfer pressure through your midfoot. The symptoms can mimic a sprain, making it difficult to detect.

What to Expect

Your symptoms may vary depending on how serious the injury is and what part of the foot is affected. You will feel pain, but you might still be able to walk—though moving the joint will be difficult. Often the joint will be swollen and possibly bruised. Occasionally you can have a visible deformity from the bones being out of place. If a nerve is damaged as well, you might develop tingling or numbness around or below the injury.

Whether mild or serious, these do need to be treated right away. Dislocations in sports or from any other injury can create serious complications. You may tear connective tissue or muscles around the affected joint. You may pinch or otherwise damage a nerve or blood vessel. You’ll be more likely to develop arthritis as well. In severe cases, you risk issues like compartment syndrome and avascular necrosis, or tissue death from lost blood supply.

How to Handle a Dislocated Foot

Because a dislocation has such a high risk for chronic or dangerous complications, treating it right away and properly is crucial. Dr. Jennifer Keller and Dr. Marshal Gwynn will need to carefully examine your lower limbs and use tests to identify the problem. Most likely our staff will need diagnostic images to rule out other issues and determine how serious the damage in your foot is. Then we can begin treating the pain.

All misaligned bones will have to be reduced, or moved back in their proper position. From there your foot will have to be immobilized in a cast to recover. You’ll have to avoid putting weight on your foot for a short period of time. During this time, keep your foot elevated and ice the painful area to decrease swelling and pain. If your bones can’t be moved back to the proper alignment conservatively, or if there was a fracture with the injury, you may need surgery to correct the damage.

If you have a painful foot injury that just isn’t healing, or you notice a visible change to the shape of your foot, you may have a dislocation. Don’t wait for complications to set in to seek help for this problem. Let Shenandoah Podiatry take care of the issue and avoid potentially chronic damage. You can reach either of our two Virginia offices by using the website or calling us: (540) 904-1458 for Roanoke, or (540) 808-4343 for Blacksburg.