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Request treatment for nursemaid's elbow online from our trusted, board-certified doctors and find relief today. See one of our board-certified doctors to diagnose nursemaid's elbow symptoms. Our doctors can refer you to an in-person specialist or physician for treatment if needed.*

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*Prescriptions are provided at the doctor's discretion. Learn more about our controlled substances policy and how to save up to 80% with our prescription discount card. PlushCare doctors cannot treat all cases of nursemaid's elbow. Our primary care physicians can conduct an initial evaluation of your symptoms but may need to refer you to a specialist or for in-person treatment. If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Learn about nursemaid's elbow

Nursemaid's elbow (also called a pulled elbow, slipped elbow, or partial dislocation) is a common injury among young children. Nursemaid's elbow happens when a ligament gets stuck between two bones in the elbow joint.

Although nursemaid's elbow can cause moderate pain, a trained healthcare provider can easily fix the problem. A pulled elbow does not cause permanent damage.

Nursemaid's elbow causes

Nursemaid's elbow happens when the radius (one of the bones in the forearm) moves out of place. Sometimes, when young children are playing or lifting their arms, the two bones in the elbow joint can separate. As a result, the ligament slips into the joint.

  • Some common causes of slipped elbows include:

    • Pulling a child by the hand or arm

    • Swinging a child around by the hands

    • Children rolling over on their arms while sleeping or playing

    Nursemaid's elbow is rarely caused by falls. If your child experiences severe pain, bruising, or swelling, these may be signs of an elbow fracture (broken bone).

    As children grow older, the ligament in their elbow tightens. In most cases, children won't get nursemaid's elbow after the age of 5, though it can happen up to ages 6 or 7.

Symptoms of nursemaid's elbow

  • The most common signs of a pulled elbow include:

    • Immediate pain in the injured arm

    • A refusal to move the injured elbow

    • Anxiety

    If you notice physical trauma (such as bruising or swelling) or your child complains of arm pain, call your child's doctor as soon as possible.

Nursemaid's elbow treatment

In most cases, a doctor will need to perform a reduction (a gentle arm movement) to move the ligament back into the correct position.

During a reduction, the doctor gently moves the child's arm, which only takes a few seconds. You might hear a popping noise as the joint moves back into place. It might feel briefly painful, but reductions bring immediate relief. Most children have full use of their arms within 5–15 minutes.

Nursemaid's elbow medication

  • If your child experiences pain or discomfort, your child's doctor may place their arm in a sling. They may also recommend medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, for pain relief.

How to prevent nursemaid's elbow

To prevent nursemaid elbow:

  • Avoid tugging on your child's arms or hands

  • Avoid lifting your child by their arms or hands

When to see a doctor for nursemaid's elbow

Talk to your doctor if your child:

  • Complains of arm pain

  • Holds their arm awkwardly (i.e., with their elbow slightly bent)

  • Avoids using their arms

Your doctor will likely perform an exam and ask about recent trauma to diagnose nursemaid's elbow. Do not attempt to correct the problem at home, as this can further damage your child's arm and joints.

After radial head subluxation occurs, it's more likely to recur. If your child's elbow becomes dislocated again, call your doctor for further treatment.

Nursemaid's elbow FAQs

  • How long does it take to recover from nursemaids elbow?

    After performing a reduction, most children will regain full use of their arm within 5–15 minutes. In most cases, children experience full relief within 30 minutes, with no sling or splinting necessary.

    If you wait a few days before seeking medical attention, your child's doctor may recommend a hard splint or cast to protect the joint for one to two weeks.

  • Is nursemaid's elbow an emergency?

    Yes, nursemaid's elbow is a medical emergency. It's important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to treat your child's injuries. Fortunately, the condition can be easily fixed by a doctor.

  • What can cause nursemaids elbow?

    Nursemaid's elbow is caused by a sudden pulling on the hand or foreman, such as when a parent grabs a young child to prevent them from falling. This causes the radius to slip out of the ligament.

  • Who gets nursemaid's elbow?

    Nursemaid's elbow commonly affects young kids and toddlers. As children grow older, their bone hardens and their ligaments tighten. As a result, most children outgrow the possibility of nursemaid's elbow by age 5.

  • How is nursemaid's elbow diagnosed?

    Your child's doctor will ask about recent trauma and perform a physical exam to diagnose nursemaids elbow. If your doctor finds evidence of physical trauma (e.g., pain, bruising, or swelling), they may recommend X-rays to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any related conditions.

3 simple steps to request treatment for nursemaid's elbow today

Step 1: Book an appointment

Step 1

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Step 2: Visit with a doctor on your smartphone

Step 2

Talk to your medical provider regarding your nursemaid's elbow symptoms.

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Step 3: pick up at local pharmacy

Step 3

Pick up prescription for nursemaid's elbow treatment, if prescribed.

We can send prescriptions to any local pharmacy or refer you to the nearest specialist for further treatment.

Related conditions to nursemaid's elbow

Because the symptoms of a slipped elbow can mimic other medical problems, it's important to talk to a trained healthcare provider for a diagnosis. Some related conditions include:

  • Elbow fracture

    In most cases, a broken arm can be treated with a splint or cast. However, more complex fractures may require surgery.

    Elbow dislocation

    If your child has a dislocated elbow, seek immediate medical care. Most dislocated elbows can be fixed without surgery.

Nursemaid's elbow treatment pricing details

How pricing works

To request nursemaid's elbow treatment and get a new or refill on your prescription, join our monthly membership and get discounted visits.

Paying with insurance

Membership

$16.99/month

First month free

Visits

Copay

30 days of free membership

  • Same-day appointments 7 days a week

  • Unlimited messages with your Care Team

  • Prescription discount card to save up to 80%

  • Exclusive discounts on lab tests

  • Free memberships for your family

  • Cancel anytime

Visit price with insurance

Often the same as an office visit. Most patients with in-network insurance pay $30 or less!

  • We accept these insurance plans and many more:

    • Humana
    • Aetna
    • United Healthcare

Paying without insurance

Membership

$16.99/month

First month free

Visits

$129

30 days of free membership

  • Same-day appointments 7 days a week

  • Unlimited messages with your Care Team

  • Prescription discount card to save up to 80%

  • Exclusive discounts on lab tests

  • Free memberships for your family

  • Cancel anytime

Visit price without insurance

Initial visits are $129.

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If we're unable to treat you, we'll provide a full refund.

Nursemaid's Elbow Resources

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PlushCare content is reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals. Learn more about our editorial standards and meet the medical team. The PlushCare site or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.