Careful Handling: Understanding Nursemaid’s Elbow


Nursemaid’s elbow, also known as radial head subluxation or pulled elbow, is a common injury among young children. It occurs when a child’s elbow is pulled or yanked, causing the radius bone to slip out of position at the elbow joint.

It primarily affects young children, typically between the ages of 1 and 4 years old. It occurs when there is a sudden traction or pulling force applied to the child’s outstretched arm, causing the ligament that holds the radius bone in place at the elbow joint to slip out of position.

Symptoms of Nursemaid’s Elbow

The most common symptom of nursemaid’s elbow is pain and reluctance to use the affected arm. Other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling around the elbow joint
  • Limited range of motion in the affected arm
  • Inability to fully extend or flex the elbow
  • Holding the affected arm close to the body or refusing to move it

Causes of Nursemaid’s Elbow

Nursemaid’s elbow typically occurs when a child’s arm is pulled or yanked suddenly, often while being lifted or swung by the hand or wrist. Common scenarios that can lead to nursemaid’s elbow include:

  • Pulling on a child’s arm to prevent them from falling
  • Lifting a child by one arm
  • Swinging a child by the arms during play


Treatment for nursemaid’s elbow typically involves a simple reduction maneuver performed by a healthcare provider.

This involves gently maneuvering the affected arm and applying pressure to the radial head to guide it back into its normal position at the elbow joint. In most cases, the reduction maneuver is quick and painless, and the child experiences immediate relief.

Preventing Recurrences of Nursemaid’s Elbow

To help prevent nursemaid’s elbow from recurring, parents and caregivers can take precautions such as:

  • Avoiding pulling or lifting a child by one arm
  • Teaching children to avoid pulling on their own arms or the arms of others
  • Supervising playtime to prevent activities that may lead to sudden arm traction

Nursemaid’s elbow is a common injury among young children, but with prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment, most children recover fully without long-term complications.

If you suspect your child may have nursemaid’s elbow, seek medical attention for evaluation and treatment.