Nursemaid elbow

Nursemaid elbow is considered as a common injury among preschool children. In this condition, the normal arrangement of two of the three bones forming the joint is disrupted. Girls are considered more susceptible to the condition than boys and the left limb is commonly affected. The injury can occur accidentally while swinging a young child by the arms or pulling the arm of a child while in a hurry. The condition is usually temporary without causing lasting consequences on the elbow, but it can be frightening to parents.

nursemaid elbow

For a nursemaid elbow, apply ice of the affected elbow.

Causes of nursemaid elbow

Nursemaid elbow can occur from an abrupt pulling force that is applied to the extended arm of a child. The follow situations can produce the mechanism of force that can cause the condition:

  • Lifting a child up from the ground by the wrist or hand
  • Pulling arms through the sleeves of jackets
  • Swinging the child while holding by the wrists or hands
  • Catching a child by the hand in an attempt to prevent a fall
  • Pulling a child in a hurry

Symptoms of a nursemaid elbow

  • Right after the injury occurs, the child cries in pain and will refuse to use to involved arm. In most cases, the arm will be protected against the body and held slightly bent with the forearm turned with the thumb toward the body. The child can often support the affected arm with the other hand.
  • The child who is old enough to talk can describe the pain in the shoulder or wrist.
  • In most cases, the child will look completely unchanged with the exception that he/she will no longer use the injured arm.

When to seek medical care

It is best to call a doctor right away after the injury. The doctor can perform reduction which involves putting the bones back in place. If a doctor is not available, take the child to the emergency department at the nearest hospital so that the appropriate measures can be provided.

Any trauma aside from the simple pulling on the hand or forearm can require further evaluation or an X-ray to be performed in a hospital. In case you notice that a deformity is present, significant swelling, bruising or anything that bothers the individual, it is best to take him/her directly to the emergency department for proper evaluation and care.

Home treatment for nursemaid elbow

At home, a first aid measure that you can perform is to apply a cool, moist towel or small bag of ice that is wrapped in a cloth for an acute injury. You can also provide over-the-counter medications for pain. Once these measures are provided, take the child to the emergency department or a doctor for proper evaluation and medical care.

Preventing nursemaid elbow

This injury can be prevented by avoiding any abrupt movement or jerking to the wrist, hand or forearm of a young child. This is important especially for children who already suffered from the condition before. When picking up a child, you have to place your hands on his/her chest and under the axillae.


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