Skip to content

Children's Health

Nursemaid's Elbow

Font Size
A
A
A

Many children squeal with delight when you swing them around or back and forth by the arms. But did you know that this fun activity can lead to one of the most common injuries in young kids?

It is called nursemaid's elbow, and it can be quite painful for your little one.

Recommended Related to Children

Talking With Kids About Disasters

Your child comes home from school in a state. He or she is panic stricken. The reason? Take your pick. In today's chaotic world, he or she may be worried about anything and everything from natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and global warming to terrorism and the Iraq War. So what's a concerned parent to do? "Today parents need to have an ongoing preemptive awareness of what the kids in school could be talking about," says Glenn Kashurba, MD, a child psychiatrist in Somerset, Pa. From...

Read the Talking With Kids About Disasters article > >

Nursemaid's elbow means the elbow has slipped out of its normal place at the joint.

The elbow bone (radius) is connected to the elbow joint(humerus) by elastic bands called ligaments. These ligaments grow stronger and tighter as a child grows older. In little kids and babies, the ligaments are still loose. This makes it easy for the elbow to slip out of place.

Your doctor or nurse may use other terms for nursemaid's elbow, such as:

  • pulled elbow
  • partially dislocated elbow
  • radial head subluxation

 

Who Gets Nursemaid's Elbow?

Nursemaid's elbow is a common injury among toddlers and preschoolers. It may happen in babies, too.

The injury is not often seen in kids older than 5 or 6. That's because as children grow, their bones harden and the ligaments get tighter and thicker. This helps keep the elbow firmly in place.

Girls are slightly more likely than boys to have nursemaid's elbow.

Causes of Nursemaid's Elbow

Nursemaid's elbow can happen if you tug or pull on a child's lower arm or hand, especially if the arm is twisted. It doesn't take much force for the injury to happen. The most common cause of nursemaid's elbow is a pulling-type injury.

Nursemaid's elbow may happen if you:

  • Catch a child by the hand to stop a fall.
  • Lift a child up by the hands or wrists.
  • Pull a child's arm through a jacket sleeve.
  • Swing a child by the arms or hands.
  • Yank on a child's arm to make him or her walk faster.

Sometimes nursemaid's elbow may happen if:

  • An infant rolls over onto the arm.
  • A child uses the hands to brace himself or herself during a fall.

Symptoms of Nursemaid's Elbow

Nursemaid's elbow can be quite painful. However, the arm or elbow doesn't look hurt, the way a broken bone or sprain might. There is no swelling or bruising.

Symptoms of nursemaid's elbow include:

  • Arm hangs straight down on side of body
  • Child is not using the arm
  • Pain when moving the arm
  • Pain in the elbow, wrist, or shoulder

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
 
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool