Help Your Child Cope With Nursemaid’s Elbow

Help Your Child Cope With Nursemaid’s Elbow 5.00/5 (100.00%) 3 votes

With nursemaid’s elbow, the end of one of the bones in the forearm (the radius) moves out of its usual position in the elbow. The head of the radius is normally held in place by a piece of tis­sue called the annular ligament When a toddler is pulled by the wrists and hands, the trajectory of the force pulls the annular ligament over the head of the radius and into the joint space, causing nursemaid’s elbow.

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This can happen when you are trying to help your child stand, when you grab her hand to cross the street, when you try to prevent a fall, or when you play games involving lifting and swinging.


If your child has nursemaid’s elbow, she will hold her arm in a very specific position: slightly bent at the elbow, hanging by her side, palm facing her belly. She will refuse to use that arm, even to reach out for her favorite food or toy. If she tries to use it, she will probably cry or wince in pain.

The elbow itself always looks perfect with nursemaid’s elbow: no swelling, no redness, no bruises. This helps distinguish it from a broken bone or a bad sprain.


Once your child has had nursemaid’s elbow, there is a slightly eater chance that she’ll have it again in the future. After age four, nursemaid’s elbow is uncommon regardless of your child’s history.


What can I do?

If you know how to fix nursemaid’s elbow, then you can do it yourself. If you don’t know how, or if you are uneasy about doing it, leave the elbow alone. If you are unsure whether it is nursemaid’s elbow, it is best not to manipulate the arm.

If the incident that caused the injury was not witnessed, or if it as witnessed but does not fit the classic story of nursemaid’s elbow (if there was no pulling on the wrist or arm), the injury is likely to be something else, such as a broken collarbone or arm.

It is very painful to manipulate the arm when there is a fracture, so this is not recommended. Again, if you are not sure whether it is nursemaid’s elbow, leave it alone and let a doctor take a look.


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When does my doctor need to be involved?

Call your doctor if you are unsure whether your child’s injury is nursemaid’s elbow. It can be difficult to distinguish a break or sprain from nursemaid’s elbow, especially if you have never seen these before. Be sure to call or visit your doctor if your child is having significant pain or absolutely refuses to move the arm.


What tests need to be done, and what do the results mean?

Tests are generally not done for nursemaid’s elbow. Your doctor can make the diagnosis by looking at the way your child is hold­ing her arm, examining her elbow (and finding that it is normal), and obtaining the history of how it happened. When there is doubt, an X ray may be done to make sure there is no fracture.


What are the treatments?

Nursemaid’s elbow is treated by putting the ligament back in its original position, a technique called reduction. Within five minutes of a successful reduction, your child will be happy and using her injured arm once again.


What are the possible complications?

Nursemaid’s elbow has no long-term complications. Once it is reduced, the pain is gone, and your child can resume normal activity. However, once your child has had nursemaid’s elbow, there is a slightly increased risk that it will happen again.