Nursemaid’s elbow, also called a pulled elbow is basically when you dislocate your child’s elbow. This is a common injury which happens when the arm is pulled, such as when:

 Lifting a small child up by their arms.
 You and your child moving in opposite directions quickly whilst holding hands.
 Lifting a child by one hand.
 Swinging a small child by their arms.
 Pulling an arm through a sleeve whilst dressing.

Any sudden pulling, stretching, jerking or swinging
of the child’s hand or forearm may cause it to slip, and it may occasionally even occur after a fall or, in a smaller child, simply rolling over on the arm. Nursemaid’s elbow can happen anytime up to 5 years old. Medically it is known as a ‘radial head subluxation’.

At the elbow, a bone called the radius sits within a ring of ligament. In adults this fits snugly but in children the bone is still growing and can slip out of the ring, injuring the ligament. The pain is excruciating. A nurse or doctor will have to move your child’s arm in a certain way to slip the bone back inside the ring of ligament. If your child seems to be in pain they would be given simple painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.


Your child may initially cry, appear to be in pain and be unable to fully bend their elbow. There is sometimes a ‘crack’ or ‘popping’ sound heard. They will be reluctant to use their arm, which may hang loosely at their side. Often they are not distressed unless you try to move the arm.


It is important to remember not to use your child’s arms to lift them up, or to play games such as swinging them by their arms as this may cause a pulled elbow. Use the child’s upper arms or armpits to lift them. Remember to teach others (like dads, grandparents, uncles, aunties, and childcare workers) to do the same.

Has this happened to any kids you know?


Source: NHS UK