Understanding Hip Dislocations & Instability | Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists | Fayetteville, AR | Rogers, AR
Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists

December 10, 2019

| Jessica Shepherd, APRN

Understanding Hip Dislocations & Instability

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, motor vehicle collisions are the most common cause of traumatic hip dislocations. The dislocation often occurs when the knee hits the dashboard in a collision. Wearing a seatbelt can greatly reduce your risk of hip dislocation during a collision. A fall from a significant height (such as from a ladder) or an industrial accident can also generate enough force to dislocate a hip. Hip dislocations are relatively uncommon during athletic events but can happen.

Whether you or a family member had an accident or are experiencing hip instability due to normal wear and tear, it’s smart to understand the anatomy of the hip joint, common symptoms, and the evaluation process.


The hip is a ball and socket joint. The femoral head (ball-shaped bone that sits at the top of the femur) and the acetabulum (socket in the pelvis that the femoral headrests) form the hip joint. The labrum is a cartilage ring that lines the acetabulum. The labrum protects the surface of the bone and provides stability. Surrounding the hip are major ligaments and muscles which offer protection and support from trauma and everyday activities.

Initial injury: Dislocation

Hip dislocation is very painful and considered an emergency due to the complications it can cause. Hip dislocation is caused when the femoral head is pushed out of the socket either backward (posterior) or forward (anterior). The most common type is posterior hip dislocation.

Hip dislocation and instability can be caused by trauma (motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries), developmental conditions (hip dysplasia) or genetic conditions. If the hip dislocation is suspected the person should not be moved and help should be called for immediately. The person will be taken to a medical facility to have the hip evaluated and relocated.

Signs of hip dislocation include:

  • Severe pain in the hip, groin, or upper leg
  • Inability to move the affected extremity
  • Shortening of the leg


After Injury

Complications from hip dislocation include fracture, hip instability, damage to the sciatic nerve, osteonecrosis (bone death), and/or arthritis. Symptoms can present immediately or take months or years to show up. The need for follow up examinations post-injury is important to rule out post-injury complications, prevent future injuries, and monitor for future conditions.

Hip instability

Damage to the ligaments surrounding the hip or to the labrum due to trauma or normal wear and tear can cause recurring hip instability. Symptoms of hip instability include:

  • Pain in the hip or groin
  • A sensation of the hip coming out of the socket
  • Hearing snapping, clicking, or popping sounds or sensations
  • Abnormal gait

If you are experiencing these symptoms it would be beneficial to have your hip evaluated to prevent future injury or dislocation. Initial evaluation of hip instability or pain would begin with a complete examination of the affected hip and x-rays would be obtained. 

At Advanced Orthopaedic Specialists we discuss the least invasive treatments first beginning with physical therapy for muscle strengthening, anti-inflammatories, and activity modification. If symptoms persist we offer further workup, injections, and surgical options. 

Here to help

If you are currently having hip pain or concerning symptoms, or you have experienced a hip injury in the past and want to prevent another one from occurring, the providers at Advanced Othopaedic Specialists are here to help. Contact us to schedule an appointment.