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Symptoms and Signs of Nursemaid's Elbow in Children

Doctor's Notes on Nursemaid's Elbow in Children

Nursemaid elbow (radial head subluxation) is a common injury among preschool-aged children in which the normal anatomical alignment of two of the three bones that form the elbow joint is disrupted. It takes very little force to pull the bones of a young child's elbow out of place and nursemaid elbow may occur simply by swinging a young child by the arms or pulling a child's arm while in a hurry.

Symptoms of nursemaid elbow include crying from pain immediately after the injury, refusal to use the involved arm, holding the arm protected against the body slightly bent with the forearm turned with the thumb toward the body, and supporting the painful arm with the other hand. Shortly after the acute injury the child will usually calm down and may return to activities but will refuse to use the affected arm. Children old enough to talk may describe pain in the wrist or shoulder in addition to, or in place of, pain in the elbow.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.