Nursemaid’s Elbow in Babies

Nursemaid's Elbow in Babies

About Nursemaid’s Elbow

Toddlers and young children are at risk for a common elbow injury called nursemaid’s elbow. This takes place when a ligament slips out of place and gets caught between two bones of the elbow joint.

In some cases it gets unstuck by itself. In most cases, a health care professional gets the ligament back in place by doing a quick, mild move of the arm.

A child with nursemaid’s elbow has some arm pain when the injury happens, however it doesn’t cause long-lasting damage.

Nursemaid’s elbow is a common injury of early childhood. It is sometimes referred to as “pulled elbow” because it happens when a child’s elbow is pulled and partially dislocates. The medical term for the injury is “radial head subluxation.”


Nursemaid’s elbow (also called pulled elbow) normally takes place in kids 1 to 4 years of ages. Their ligaments (the elastic-like bands that hold bones together) are a bit loose. So it can be easy for a ligament in the elbow to slip into the joint and get stuck.

Nursemaid’s elbow can happen with simply a percentage of force. For instance:

  • Pulling a child up by the hands can put stress on the elbows. Never get a toddler or infant by the hands or wrists, however lift under the armpits.
  • Swinging a toddler by holding the hands or wrists can put stress on the elbow joint and must be avoided.
  • Jerking an arm when pulling a toddler along or rapidly getting his/her hand can make the ligament slip.
  • Always be gentle when taking a child by the hand.
  • Breaking a fall by reaching an arm out for defense can overextend the elbow, causing the ligament to slip.
  • Rolling over in an uncomfortable way in a baby crib, bed, or on the floor can cause nursemaid’s elbow in babies and extremely young kids.

As kids age, the ligaments tighten up. A lot of will not get nursemaid’s elbow after they turn 5 years old, though it can occur approximately age 6 or 7.

Signs and Symptoms

A child with nursemaid’s elbow will not wish to use the injured arm because moving it hurts. She or he will keep the arm in a straight position or with a small bend in the elbow. The injury won’t be obvious because nursemaid’s elbow does not cause defect or swelling.

An arm or elbow injury that causes severe pain might be a sign of an elbow fracture (damaged bone) or a bad contusion. It can be difficult for a parent to inform whether an injury is nursemaid’s elbow or a fracture, so it is essential to call your doctor if your child has hurt an elbow.

Nursemaid's Elbow in Babies


At a doctor’s workplace or an emergency clinic, a health care expert will examine the child’s arm and ask questions about how the injury happened. Usually, no unique tests are had to detect nursemaid’s elbow. X-rays are done only if a fracture is presumed.

If there’s no swelling or signs of another injury, the doctor will do a gentle maneuver called a reduction. This procedure takes just a few seconds. The child will rest on a parent’s lap while the doctor carefully takes the arm from a straight position and flexes it upwards or corrects the alignment of the arm while turning the palm to the floor.

Kids may have a quick minute of pain during the decrease, however rapidly feel far better. Most have complete use of the arm within 5 to 10 minutes. Some cases might require more than one decrease to successfully repair the injury.

Occasionally, a child might not wish to use the arm after a reduction, fearing it will hurt. If there is some discomfort, the doctor might put the arm in a sling and say it’s OKAY to provide acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. Sometimes, the doctor might place a splint (a partial cast) to protect the arm up until a specialist can examine it after a few days off.


It’s important to understand that kids who get nursemaid’s elbow might get it again. So bear in mind the risks and don’t pull, yank, or swing your child by the arms or hands, and make certain to tell all caretakers to do the same.

Still, some kids are simply more susceptible to obtaining nursemaid’s elbow than others and may get it once again even when parents try hard to avoid it.

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