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What Does a Hip Subluxation Feel Like? Symptoms

Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2021

A hip subluxation occurs when the hip joint is partially out of position. This can cause pain, spasm, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected side

A hip subluxation occurs when the hip joint is partially out of position. This can cause pain, spasm, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected side.

Subluxation is not the same as dislocation, which occurs when the bones in a joint get split or knocked out of their normal locations. Subluxation usually happens gradually over time due to decreased muscle tone, spasticity, or motor vehicle collisions.

What is the anatomy of the hip?

The hip is a ball and socket type of joint. The top of the femur (top of the thigh bone) is the ball and the piece of the pelvis that meets the upper part of the thigh bone is the socket. When this joint works properly, the ball moves freely in the socket and the leg moves without pain. 

When the ball is slightly out of the socket as with hip subluxation, it can restrict the range of movement of the hip and change the development of the femur and hip bone. Over the long run, a subluxated hip can become completely dislocated when the hip is not in the socket at all.

What are the signs and symptoms of hip subluxation?

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Joint swelling
  • Pain in the joint
  • Visible deformity
  • Spasms over the thigh and buttocks
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty moving the leg
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty bearing weight or standing on the affected hip
  • Leg on the side of the affected hip may appear shorter and may be turned inward or outward

How is hip subluxation diagnosed?

Doctors will be able to determine a hip subluxation via a clinical assessment. 

Specialists may likewise arrange proper imaging tests, such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, or computed tomography scans, to see the exact position of the disjointed bones. The imaging may show broken bones or different wounds nearby.

How is hip dislocation treated?

Treatment depends on the extent of subluxation and other associated injuries (whether the femur is fractured, other soft tissue injuries, etc.).

Specialists may have the option to treat a subluxated hip without surgical procedures if the femur is not broken. This treatment is conservative. After giving medications to relax the muscles and make the patient comfortable, the doctor pushes the top of the femur once again back into the right spot. This is called joint reduction. To confirm that the joint is properly situated, they may take an X-ray as well.

If the femur is broken, surgical treatment may be required. The specialist may use screws or nails to hold the fracture together. If the top of the femur is injured, they may have to replace a few pieces of the hip. In extreme cases, they may need to perform a complete hip replacement.

After the subluxation has been corrected, the specialist may prescribe medications to control pain and inflammation. Patients may also have to use supports for a brief time. To prevent future wounds to the hip, physiotherapy may be recommended. This can help heal tendons and muscles and improve the range of motion.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2021

References

Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Hip Subluxation, Dislocation and Surveillance in Children with Cerebral Palsy (CP). https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/health-wellness-and-safety-resources/helping-hands/hip-subluxation-dislocation-and-surveillance-in-children-with-cerebral-palsy

Ada Medical. Subluxation and Dislocation of the Hip. https://ada.com/conditions/subluxation-and-dislocation-of-the-hip/

Tavares JO. Differentiating Subluxation From Developmental Dislocation of the Hip. Orthop Rev (Pavia). 2012;4(1):e7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3348695/

Bell DJ. Chronic Hip Subluxation. Radiopaedia. https://radiopaedia.org/articles/chronic-hip-subluxation

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