Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Radial Head Subluxation

Nursemaid’s elbow, also known as radial head subluxation, is a common injury among toddlers and preschoolers, typically occurring between ages 1-4 years old. It happens when a ligament slips out of place and gets caught between two bones in the elbow joint, partially dislocating the elbow.

Common Symptoms

  • Arm pain and refusal to use or move the affected arm
  • Holding the arm slightly bent and close to the body
  • No visible swelling or bruising

Cause & Anatomy

The injury usually occurs when a child is pulled or lifted by the hand, wrist or forearm, causing the elbow to extend and the ligament to slip out of place. Common scenarios include:

  • Pulling a child by the hand to prevent falling or running off
  • Swinging a child around by the hands or arms
  • Lifting a child up by the hands, wrists or forearms
  • The child rolling over on the arm during sleep or play


Diagnosis is typically based on the history and physical examination, with no need for X-rays unless a fracture is suspected. The healthcare provider will check for inability to rotate or fully flex the elbow.


A gentle maneuver called a “reduction” is performed to slip the ligament back into place, often resulting in an audible “pop”. This provides immediate relief, with full use of the arm restored within 5-15 minutes. Occasionally, a splint or sling may be used for residual discomfort.

Prevention involves avoiding pulling, tugging or swinging a child by the arms or hands, and instead lifting under the armpits

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