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Nursemaid Elbow Symptoms & Treatment | Radial Head Subluxation

Many toddlers love to get swung by their arms. The feeling of flying through the air while safely protected by mom or dad is almost irresistible to them. Their laughter while they zoom in circles and their begging to “fly” makes it pretty irresistible to parents. Unfortunately this fun activity can result in one of the most common injuries that toddlers receive called nursemaids elbow.

What Is Nursemaids Elbow

Inside the elbow are ligaments that hold the bones to the elbow joint. In small children the ligaments tend to be fairly thin, stretchy, and loose. These nice and flexible elbow joints make it much more likely that the elbow will partially dislocate or move out of place. Thankfully as kids get older these ligaments get thicker, less flexible, and tighten up making it much less likely that the elbow can slip out of place. Physicians may refer to this as a partially dislocated elbowpulled elbow, or the medical term radial head subluxation.

As a toddler’s arm is pulled by the hand or lower arm it can cause the elbow to slip. Only slight pressure is needed to cause the elbow to slip, especially when the arm is twisted. Some common causes of this injury are:

  • Picking up a toddler by the hands or lower arms
  • Swinging the child around in a circle by their hands
  • A falling kid stopping themselves with extended arms
  • Pulling on the their arms to make them walk or run

Typical Symptoms & Complaints Of Nursemaids Elbow

Young children tend to be very resilient and adaptable. They may never complain about pain and there may not be any obvious signs. Nursemaids elbow does not look like a typical injury because the toddlers elbow wont look swollen or inflamed. All of this makes it difficult for a parent to recognize the signs of nursemaids elbow. So what can a parent look for and what might a child complain about? The most common signs of nursemaids elbow are:

  • The child won’t use their arm
  • They leave their arm hanging down beside their body
  • When the arm is moved the toddler may experience pain
  • The pain can be anywhere from the wrist to the shoulder

Getting Your Child’s Elbow Pain Treated

It is important to not treat any pain a toddler experiences without first speaking with your physician. In the cases of suspected nursemaids elbow you should seek out a pediatric orthopedic specialist who can usually treat the injury in the office on an outpatient basis. Usually an orthopedic specialist will restore the elbow to its proper place by using a specialized method which will “pop” everything back into position. Rarely it may take a couple attempts to get the joint back into working order. In Illinois your best choice for pediatric orthopedics is IBJI. Make an appointment now to get your little one’s pain treated and laughter back in your house.

This information is not intended to provide advise or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s).