Nursemaids Elbow

What is Nursemaids Elbow

Nursemaids Elbow happens when the bones that meet at the elbow separate (dislocate). It usually happens to children younger than 7 years. Nursemaids Elbow is often caused by:

  • Pulling on a child’s hand or arm.
  • Lifting a child by the arms.
  • Swinging a child around by the arms.
  • A child falling and trying to stop the fall with an outstretched arm.

Nursemaids elbow causes pain. Your child will cry, and will not want to move his or her injured arm. Your child may need an X-ray to make sure no bones are broken. Your child’s doctor can usually put your child’s elbow back in place easily. After your child’s doctor puts the elbow back in place, there are usually no more problems.

Nursemaids elbow is caused by radial head subluxation through the annular ligament of the elbow, resulting in abnormal positioning of the ligament between the radial head and capitellum. It is often caused by sudden traction on the forearm in a child 1 to 3 years old. Radiographs may appear normal but are obtained to exclude fractures.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Watch your child carefully. Let the doctor know if:
    • Pain does not go away.
    • New symptoms occur.
  • To prevent nursemaid’s elbow from happening again:
    • Always lift your child by grasping under his or her arms.
    • Do not swing or pull your child by his or her hand or wrist.
  • After treatment, your child can do all his or her usual activities as told by his or her doctor.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if your child:

  • Has pain for more than 24 hours.
  • Has swelling or bruising near his or her elbow.
  • Does not use the arm in a normal way.


  • Nursemaid’s elbow occurs when part of the elbow moves out of its normal position.
  • This is caused by lifting or pulling the child by the arms. It can also be caused by a fall.
  • Contact your child’s doctor if pain does not go away, or if new problems occur.

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