Joint stability describes the function of musculoskeletal tissue such as muscles, ligaments and tendons around a joint that support that joint and allow it to function within its specific range of movement. When some sort of trauma such as a fall or a blow forces a joint out of its normal range of movement, anything from minor damage to soft tissue, to joint dislocation or bone fracture can occur. Some people with looser tendons and ligaments (called 'hypermobility' or 'joint hypermobility syndrome' sometimes called being 'double jointed') are also more prone to joint instability and dislocation, which for them can occur at very low levels of trauma.
Some joint dislocations are more common than others – shoulder dislocations for example account for just under half of all trips to the emergency department for joint dislocation. With specific joints, some types of dislocation are more common than others – with knees for example the most common dislocation is of the kneecap ('patella').
The primary treatment for dislocation is 'reduction' which is where a medical professional manipulates the joint back into the correct position. This needs to be done quite quickly after the dislocation to avoid any damage to the blood supply.
A dislocation will unfortunately make the joint more prone to future dislocation, due to a weakening of muscles and ligaments caused by the original dislocation. In some cases, joints require stabilisation –via either arthroscopic (minimally invasive) or open surgery.
The joints that need stabilisation most frequently are:
- The Shoulder Joint – see: Shoulder stabilisation.
- The Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint – see: AC joint stabilisation.
- The Elbow Joint – see: Elbow stabilisation.
- The Knee Joint.