What to Do with a ‘Nursemaid’s Elbow’

When walking with children, our tendency is to grab their small hands or wrists, and swing their arms back and forth. But did you know that this sweeping motion can be too dangerous if we put on a lot of pressure?

This can cause an injury called a “nursemaid’s elbow,” a condition in which a ligament has slipped out of place and is caught between the bones of the elbow joint. With nursemaid’s elbow, even a small amount of pressure is enough to cause an injury.

This condition happens to children between 1 to 4 years old. It is more prevalent to girls than boys, and frequently happens more to the left arm than the right.  At this early stage, children’s ligaments are still loose, fragile, and yet to develop, which makes their elbows easy to fall out of place. Instances such as pulling a child up by the hands, jerking an arm too forcefully, or swinging a child’s arms can lead to injury.

Signs and Symptoms of Nursemaid’s Elbow

A nursemaid’s elbow injury is not so obvious because there are no signs of bruising or swelling from the outside. But you can tell your child has one if he or she does not use an arm and keeps it in a straight position.

Although it can be painful, a nursemaid’s elbow is a temporary condition without permanent damage to a child’s body. Severe pain means there could be a broken bone involved, in which case a San Diego pediatric orthodontist will need to be consulted. A doctor will prescribe a pain reliever and will do a “reduction” maneuver to put the elbow back into place. An x-ray only becomes necessary if the doctor suspects fracture.

To prevent a nursemaid’s elbow injury in the future, you should be more gentle and careful with your child, and advice other caregivers to do the same.

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