Hip Dislocation

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The round head of the thighbone fits into the socket of the pelvis. A hip dislocation happens when the femur pops out of its socket. It takes a strong force to tear the ligaments and joint capsule that hold the joint in place. Sometimes a part of the thighbone or pelvis is also broken. Car accidents are the most common cause for hip dislocations.

Because of the strong forces involved, there is a high risk for complications after a hip dislocation. The complications include the following:

  • Injury to the sciatic nerve. This nerve passes just behind the hip joint. Hip dislocation can affect this nerve and cause immediate numbness and weakness in the lower leg.

  • Injury to the nearby blood vessels that supply nutrients to the femur. This can cause poor blood flow and permanent damage to this part of the femur. Symptoms of hip pain and limping may not show up until months or years later.

  • Injury to the joint cartilage that covers the joint surfaces. This can be torn as the bone pops out of the joint. It can cause osteoarthritis to appear months or years later.

Your healthcare provider will check you for these problems and advise treatment when needed. Treatment depends on how severe the injury is. Torn ligaments take at least 6 weeks to heal. It may take 3 to 4 months or longer before you can return to full activity after a hip dislocation.

Home care

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s advice regarding weight bearing and use of crutches or a walker.

  • Take pain medicine as directed.

  • Weight-bearing with crutches can be tried with the approval of your healthcare provider. This will be after you are free of hip pain. This may take 1 to 2 weeks if there were no fractures.

  • Leg muscle strengthening exercises may be advised once you are pain-free and able to walk without crutches.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Weakness, feel lightheaded, or faint

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain

  • Numbness or weakness in the affected leg

  • Injured leg becomes pale or cold

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Increasing hip pain

  • Increasing swelling, redness, or pain of the lower leg

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