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Dramatic Dislocation

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Woah! Okay, never mind. Problem solved… Ow.

A dislocated joint, usually a shoulder, is a fabulous dramatic device. It's (usually) non-lethal, it hurts a lot, it severely disables their range of motion, and the character is usually forced to reduce (relocate) the joint without the convenience of proper medical attention or anesthetics, meaning it will almost always hurt. A lot.

The injured person will often have to coax someone nearby into assisting with the reduction, which they will be reluctant to do because of the Squickiness of the procedure. The opposite of this is when the injured person is assisted by a more experienced individual who lulls them into a more relaxed frame of mind before surprising them by deftly snapping the joint back into place. If you want to show someone as a total badass, have them relocate their own shoulder by slamming it into a wall, etc.

This trope has some elements of Truth in Television; while it is always better to seek proper medical attention, people in remote locations such as hikers and skiers sometimes have to reduce dislocated joints on their own. Where this trope starts to break from reality is the method used to pop the bone back into place. There are procedures that, while not as quick and dramatic as those shown in media, can put a shoulder back into joint with minimal pain, and most people with experience dealing with injuries would know this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Rin from Blade of the Immortal has her shoulders dislocated after being whipped with a wooden sword. They are reset by Doa, but then she gets involved in several strenuous situations that cause them to become dislocated again and is rendered immobile until someone comes to help.
  • Bleach: When fighting Moe Shishigawara, Ikkaku Madarame gets his shoulder dislocated and resets it just by flexing his muscles.
  • Clare from the Claymore manga dislocates a shoulder during her training and pops it back in by ramming her shoulder into a wall, as seen above.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: On top of being really flexible, Inosuke can dislodge every joint in his body, allowing him to squeeze into any space as long as he can fit his head in. Once out, he just pops everything back into place.
  • Dragon Ball Super: In the Tournament of Power, after being badly beaten by Jiren, Goku pops his own shoulder back into place after retreating to a safe location.
  • Alex Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist has his shoulder dislocated by the homunculus Sloth. After taking a beating due to having only one working arm, he uses Sloth's attempt at a finishing blow to pop it back into place, turning the tide of the fight dramatically.
  • Ginji of Get Backers fame once had both arms and legs dislocated as a form of non-lethal restraint. He proceeded to pop one shoulder back in by hurling himself on the ground hoping it would hit right. Somehow, it did, and he then leaped out the window of the boat. Cue comically trying to swim with only one limb.
  • In an episode of Lupin III, Lupin and Jigen have to jump from a car with a bomb strapped to its undercarriage (placed there by a hitman posing as Jigen’s old shooting mentor). They roll down a grassy hill to safety, but Jigen can’t stop himself before colliding with a rock, dislocating his right shoulder. Lupin pops it back into place, but it’s still painful enough that Jigen is shaking in agony until the entire arm is immobilized. Because his right arm is his shooting arm, Jigen is forced to allow Lupin to take revenge against his treacherous former teacher for him.
  • In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Domon intentionally dislocates his own right shoulder while caught up in the Cobra Gundam's coils; because this series' Gundams are Motion-Capture Mecha, God Gundam's shoulder also dislocates, which gives Domon enough wiggle room to escape Cobra's clutches and perform his Finishing Move left-handed.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Heero Yuy dislocates his knee after failing to open his parachute in time after jumping out of a building. He later pops it back in place with considerable pain, given his established badassery, and with an exasperated remark from Duo who is disgusted by the act.
  • In Monster Musume, Kimihito gets his shoulder dislocated by an overly affectionate Miia. Miss Smith pops it back into place by stepping on his shoulder and leveraging his arm up. More than likely she just didn't care enough to bother using a gentler technique.
  • In Naruto, Naruto's shoulder got dislocated just before he and the rest of the shinobi forces are about to attack Obito and Madara. This was solved by Hinata resets his shoulders with her gentle fist palm thrust.
  • The M.O. of the martial artist A.I. Iron Schwartz in Real Drive is to dislocate the joints of his defeated opponents both to humiliate them and to prevent them from continuing fighting reliably without putting their lives in danger, since it's implied that androids can't kill.
  • In the Sengoku Basara: Samurai Legends manga, Hideyoshi dislocates Masamune's shoulder with his bare hands. Masamune then has to fight one-armed until he pulls himself together and reduces it. Badass though he may be, it looks incredibly painful.
  • In the last episode of the Ultimate Muscle anime, Kid Muscle/Mantaro's shoulders are dislocated by Kevin Mask during their encounter in the finals of the Chojin Olympics. While he's eventually able to pop them back into place simply by flexing his arms (that's how muscular he is), he later dislocates them again intentionally to escape Kevin's Big Ben Bash.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man once had to put a dislocated jaw back into place after battling Hammerhead. Proportionate strength of a spider + metal garbage bin = ow. He also dislocated a shoulder against Puma, and had to get it back in himself.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): During Wonder Woman's fight with a brainwashed Superman in "The Witch and the Warrior" he dislocates her left shoulder and she has to grit her teeth and pop it back in during a lull in the fight.

    Fan Works 
  • Little Hands, Big Attitude: While evading Agent Stone in his mecha suit, Sonic crashes hard against the frozen lake and dislocates his shoulder. This means that he can no longer carry Shadow to safety, who can't move on his own because of his disabled leg, and now the two have no real means of protecting the Chaos Emerald. It is only quick thinking from Shadow and Silver's timely intervention that saves them. Later, when Maddie gives Sonic a towel to bite down so she can relocate it, Kncukles comments that his tribe used to use bark for this. Sonic at first protests but Maddie tells him that he could have broken a tooth without something to bite down.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In the first Best of the Best movie, Alex, whose career as a Taekwondo competitor was nearly ended by a past shoulder injury, gets his shoulder dislocated by his opponent. (With the fairly strong implication that his opponent knew about the injury from scouting Alex and intentionally targeted it.) Despite the protests of the team's head coach, Alex insists on his teammates and the coaching staff popping the shoulder back into place and then finishing the last 30 seconds or so of his bout without the benefit of his right arm. (In a small nod to proper treatment, unlike many cases listed in this article, they do bind his arm very tightly to try to prevent the shoulder from dislocating again.)
  • Zhen manages to pull off a relocation in mid-kung fu battle in Fist of Legend, after fighting one-handed for a couple of minutes, and still holding his own. When he finally pops the arm back in, his opponent gets a mild Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: During his Heroic Second Wind moment at the film's climax, Kong slams his shoulder (which Godzilla had previously dislocated) against a building to knock it back into place.
  • Interceptor: The heroine is zip-tied to a chair, helpless to stop a nuclear missile heading towards the United States. She tells the Big Bad that she used to be a goalkeeper and the most common injury suffered is a dislocated thumb...
  • Justice League (2017): A low-key version when Wonder Woman puts Bruce Wayne's shoulder back into place in an After Action Patch Up.
  • Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon films can dislocate his shoulder at will, and uses it to escape from a straitjacket and ropes in Lethal Weapon 2. Of course, afterward he has to pop it back in place (by himself). The fact that he does both of these things without doing more than grimacing serves to underscore how utterly badass (or crazy) he is. He does cry out in pain when he reduces it, and he cringes and curls up into a standing fetal position when he's not in combat.
  • Tiger relocates his shoulder in a fight in Man of Tai Chi.
  • In Prince Caspian, Edmund does the surprise pop-in after Peter dislocates his arm.

  • After Dr. Gorner in Devil May Care tells James Bond that he is going to fly the stolen airjet to destroy Trekhgorniy, the place where Soviets manufacture their nuclear bombs, Bond points out that he is unable to do so because he dislocated Gorner's shoulder. Dr. Gorner then orders his enforcer Chagrin to fix it, which he does. Painfully.
  • In The Seventh Tower, Tal's arm is dislocated during the retrieval of the Codex. Milla puts it back in after.
  • The Invisible Detective: Flinch can dislocate her joints at will to squeeze through tight spaces.
  • In Two Eggs On My Plate by Oluf Reed Olsen, the author realises he's dislocated his knee after he was slammed against the side of the aircraft from which he parachuted into Nazi-occupied Norway. He reduces the dislocation using the fork of a tree, but then has to walk for several days on that knee with 80 lbs of gear on his back.
  • This happens occasionally in Warrior Cats. In Moonrise, Mousefur's shoulder gets dislocated when a Twoleg tries to capture her; Cinderpelt teaches Leafpaw how to fix it. In Leafpool's Wish, Whitepaw's tail gets dislocated, and Leafpool has to debate the best way to treat her since the apprentice is otherwise wounded from tangling with a hare.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Angel, Doyle can do this with his neck. Being half demon helps.
  • Arrow:
    • While they're on the island of Lian Yu, Slade Wilson has Oliver Queen tied up and is going to kill him, because he's not a fighter and could give away Slade's hideout if captured. But when Oliver breaks his thumb to slip free of his ropes and take an (ineffectual) swing at Slade, he knows Oliver has what it takes to be trained to fight (it's strongly implied Slade was hoping for this to happen). Like other lessons Oliver learns on the island, it's a Chekhov's Skill that gets used in later episodes.
    • In "Legacy", Anatoli frees Oliver from being tied to the chair, by dislocating his thumbs and then rearranging them into place:
      Oliver: Anatoli, can't you bring a knife next time?!
      Anatoli: What is fun of that?
    • In a crossover with The Flash (2014), Oliver mentions that Anatoli taught him how to specially stretch the ligaments so he won't break any bones while doing this. As the Arrow and the Flash have done a "Freaky Friday" Flip, it's Barry Allen who has to dislocate his own thumbs, and Oliver bursts out laughing at the sight as he never realised how silly it looked.
    • In "The Return", Oliver dislocates his sister Thea's arm so she has the flexibility to reach out of their cell and around the corner to press the button to unlock the doors.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "The Zeppo", Faith uses a shoulder relocation as a segue into sex; notable because she uses the mild-mannered Xander merely as a counterweight, saying "Hold Me", and when he goes to give her a Security Cling, snaps it back into place.
  • In one episode of Burn Notice, Michael lets the bad guy dislocate his shoulder (which Fiona chides him for later) to maintain his cover, then, after the bad guy leaves, slams his shoulder against a post to pop it back in. In the next scene, it's clearly still sore, and not helped much when the same bad guy threatens to dislocate it again.
    • In a later episode, Fiona dislocates her shoulder to get out of being cuffed to a chair, popping it back a minute later by herself.
  • Martha Jones in the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Daughter" popped in the shoulder of a Hath (a fish-like alien) immediately after it had been injured while trying to kill her. This earns her the respect and friendship of all the other Hath.
  • ER: In the season 5 episode "The Good Fight", Carter and Lucy are searching downtown Chicago for a patient's father (they need him for a blood transfusion, because he and his daughter share a rare blood type) when Carter falls and dislocates his shoulder trying to scale a fence. He coaches Lucy through popping his arm back into socket (an evidently very painful process). By the end of the episode (and for the next few episodes after), Carter has his arm in a sling.
  • Farscape. In "That Old Black Magic", Crais manages to dislocate John Crichton's shoulder with a chain; with nobody willing to help him in range, Crichton "pops" it back into place by slamming himself against a wall. The Big Bad notes that Crichton did the same thing in his teens, following a motorcycle crash.
  • How George and Callie meet on Grey's Anatomy.
  • Subverted and played for Body Horror on Haven, where Ian Haskell steals Nathan's Feel No Pain Trouble. The audience is left to wonder what someone would want with a power that's repeatedly been shown to suck, until Ian shimmies into an old building through an extremely narrow fireplace. He stands up, pops both shoulders back into place, and proceeds with his plan of robbing the place, unaffected by any pain because of Nathan's Trouble.
  • Claire of Heroes, has done this of course, due to her tendency to go get fatally injured at the slightest provocation. A particularly gruesome scene showed her popping in her shoulder joint — and also pushing her ribs back inside her chest.
  • House: Dr. House once instructed a non-doctor in resetting Mira Sorvino's toe in "Frozen".
  • In a comedic version, on iCarly, Spencer is first introduced in the apartment hanging one of his art pieces from the ceiling, when he falls onto the living room floor, dislocating his shoulder. He gets up and promptly falls down in the opposite direction to pop it back into place.
  • At least three times on Lost: Charlie reluctantly helps Jack, and Kate reluctantly helps Juliet. Libby goes for the surprise version in "The Other 48 Days" while telling the injured Red Shirt a story about skiing.
  • In the second season of Luke Cage (2016), Luke ends up with a dislocated shoulder after being shot with a special gun designed to deal with superpowered individuals like him. Unlike most instances of this trope, he tries and fails to set it himself and needs Claire's help.
    Luke: Couldn't find a leverage.
  • M*A*S*H: In the episode "They Call the Wind Korea", Klinger and Charles are trapped in a rolled truck during a wind storm with a bunch of injured Greek soldiers. One of them has a dislocated shoulder that Charles has to reduce. Since it's Charles, there's a lot of griping involved about the lack of proper medical supplies.
  • The Pretender:
    • In the episode "Keys", Miss Parker dislocates her own thumb in order to escape a set of handcuffs, and then pops it back into place afterwards.
    • Another episode had Jarod pop back his own shoulder after it'd dislocated in a plane crash.
  • The Punisher (2017). In Season 2, Frank Castle has to ram his own shoulder back into place after the ambulance he's in falls off a highway overpass while he's handcuffed inside it. Pilgrim, the man hunting him, has to reset his jaw after getting a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from a gang of neo-Nazis.
  • Ronon Dex from Stargate Atlantis, after dislocating his shoulder in an explosion that caused the space station they were on to start falling out of orbit, slams his shoulder into a wall to get it back into place. This despite Sheppard being right there, telling him to calm down and offering to help.
  • Supernatural: In Season 4's "I Know What You Did Last Summer" Dean dislocates his shoulder when he and Sam jump out of a church window to escape some demons. Sam pops it back in for him.
  • SAS: Rogue Heroes. After a disasterous parachute landing, one of the surviving SAS complains that his arm is broken. Lt. Jock Lewes tells him he's lucky as in the SAS you're not expected to salute, wraps a webbing belt around him as a sling and shoves the arm back in place.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena once had her shoulder dislocated and rams it against a wall to pop it right back in.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Japanese wrestler K-ness once got his elbow dislocated for real after a botched spot with Masato Yoshino, but he just relocated it again in order to keep on with the match.
  • During a training session in Universal Wrestling Federation, Mark Fleming went for a takedown and popped Gary Albright's knee out of the socket. The UWF-i staff was about to have a fit when Albright just popped it back and continued training.
  • Dean Ambrose seems to have a loose shoulder, as he has been forced to set it back in several matches.

    Video Games 
  • Trying to heal yourself in Far Cry 4 if you don't have a healing syringe in your inventory may show Ajay popping a dislocated finger or wrist back into place.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater features Naked Snake getting, among other injuries, a dislocated elbow after he falls from a bridge. After using the proper medical tools on him, the player gets to watch him reduce the joint, complete with nerve-wracking sound effects.
    • Snake's arm is dislocated during the escape from the hospital in the prologue of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. His buddy Ishmael sets it in place for him, complete with sickening sound effects. Snake can also dislocate his arm in gameplay, and the player can set it back in place with a button press.
      Ishmael: Next time, do it yourself.
  • In Tales of Berseria, Velvet jumps down a cliff, using her daemonblight-infected arm to slow her fall. She dislocates her shoulder on the way down but pops it back into place against the cliff wall once she lands. Guest-Star Party Member Seres does the rest by using healing arts to dull the pain.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Double Homework finds Rachel in the locker room with a hurt ankle. He examines her, and finds that the bones aren’t broken, just dislocated. While massaging her ankle, there’s an option to lick Rachel out, unlocking sexual relations between the two of them.

  • In Weak Hero, Dongha dislocates Alex's shoulder during their fight, leaving Alex with only one arm to work with. While all the fights in the series are brutal, this marks the first time that one of the protagonists loses the use of their limb during a fight. Alex still manages to get in some good hits, but Dongha keeps targeting his injured shoulder and would've forced him into a defeat if not for Gerard's timely intervention.

    Web Video 
  • In the Daredevil vs Nightwing episode of DEATH BATTLE!, Nightwing gets out of a headlock from DD by dislocating his arm. DD bites down on his stick and pops the shoulder back into place before continuing the fight.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Family Guy episode "Be Careful What You Fish For", Stewie has his arm dislocated by his negligent preschool teacher, whom Brian is dating. To keep Lois from finding out, Brian forcibly relocates Stewie's arm, with Stewie making a nod to his sadomasochistic side.
    Stewie: I'm not saying I like pain, but I'm not saying I don't like it either.

    Real Life 
  • In 2000, Danny Williams and Mark Potter fought in a boxing match for the vacant British Heavyweight title. Williams' right shoulder was dislocated in the 3rd round, and reduced in his corner between rounds. Early in the 6th, the shoulder was once again dislocated, and Williams spent two whole minutes trying to survive with his arm hanging limply while Potter pressed the attack. With Potter coming in somewhat recklessly, Williams managed to perfectly time a left-handed blow, knocking Potter out. It doesn't get any more dramatic than that.
  • December 10, 2016: In a bout between Paata Tschapelia and Arkadiusz Wroblewski in Germany, Wroblewski ends up dislocating his shoulder throwing a massive overhand left at the very start of the fight. As the referee looks to the sidelines for help, Tschapelia steps forward instead and pulls on Wroblewski’s arm until it pops back into place, allowing the two to continue fighting. Source Video


Video Example(s):


Kong Fixes his Shoulder

After his hard fought battle with Godzilla, Kong takes use of a respite to put his shoulder in place. By bashing it against a building.

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Example of:

Main / DramaticDislocation

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