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Radial Head Subluxation

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How is a radial head subluxation usually diagnosed?

Your doctor usually suspects the injury from your report of how it happened, your child's symptoms, and results of the physical exam. The doctor will feel different areas of the arm and try to move it into certain positions. Usually X-rays of the elbow are not needed. But your doctor may order one to find out if your child has a more serious injury.

How is it treated?

Radial head subluxation should be treated by a doctor.

Allow your child to keep the arm in the most comfortable position until you get medical help.

You can also put an ice pack on your child's elbow. But if your child resists, don't insist. Be careful not to move your child's arm from his or her most comfortable position.

A doctor will move your child's arm to free the trapped ligament and put the end of the radius back into its normal position. The doctor rotates your child's forearm. At the same time, he or she gently bends your child's arm at the elbow up toward the shoulder. Usually, your child starts feeling better right away, although sometimes the pain lingers for a bit. It may take from 30 minutes to a few hours for him or her to move the arm normally.

The doctor may place a sling or splint on your child's arm to wear until all pain is gone. If your child can move the arm normally without pain soon after treatment, a sling or a splint is not needed.

What should I do after my child is treated for radial head subluxation?

Although your child heals quickly, he or she has a greater chance of having another radial head subluxation, especially in the first few weeks after being injured.

  • Be careful in how you hold or lift your child. When you lift or swing your child, hold him or her under the arms. This includes when you lift your child up onto a higher surface (such as a sidewalk or equipment at a playground).
  • Use care when walking with your child as you hold his or her hand or lower arm (forearm). If a child pulls back or resists, stop. Don't pull your child. Wait until he or she is ready to go with you without resistance. If this is not possible, pick up your child.

Be sure to follow your doctor's directions on how to care for your child after a radial head subluxation.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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