How to Treat Nursemaids Elbow

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Nursemaid's Elbow is a condition that typically affects children from 1 to 4 years of age. In this condition, the elbow is partially pulled out of joint by a pull or twist of the arm. This can occur during ordinary play if the child accidentally experiences a sharp pull to the arm while playing with moving toys. It can occur when the parent or other adult grasps the arm in an attempt to prevent the child from dangerous activities, if the child resists or twists sharply in an attempt to break free of the grasp. The child will experience sudden pain and may cry for a moment or two and then resume ordinary activities appearing normal with the exception of not using the affected arm. Nursemaid's elbow requires prompt medical care, but the arm can be set quickly in the doctor's office with only brief discomfort for the child.

Treating Nursemaid's Elbow

Observe your child carefully after any injury. A child with Nursemaid's Elbow will return to normal activities, but will typically hold the arm slightly bent close to the body with the thumb pointing inward. He will resist any attempts to use the affected arm.

Ask children who are old enough to speak to describe any pain they may be experiencing. He is likely to describe pain in the shoulder and wrist in addition to pain in the elbow. Pain in the elbow itself may not be present.

Check the affected arm by gently moving the arm away from the body and attempting to turn it palm upwards. Your child will cry out or flinch in pain if he is suffering from Nursemaid's Elbow.

Seek immediate medical care if you suspect nursemaid's elbow. Although the condition can be set easily in the doctor's office, delaying treatment can make it more difficult and subject your child to unnecessary discomfort. If you can not get your child into his regular doctor quickly, take him to the emergency room.

Provide the doctor or emergency room staff with the details of the event prior to the injury. Be as thorough as possible. Don't worry that the doctor will think you have neglected or harmed your own child. This is a very common condition and it can happen under the best of care.

Assist medical personnel by speaking calmly and reassuring your child while he is examined. You will typically be asked to hold your child on your lap with the child facing the doctor. The doctor will examine the arm and if Nursemaid's Elbow is present he will either hold the elbow while rotating the arm outward and turning the palm up or, in some cases, extend the arm fully and rotate the palm inward. Your child may experience a slight click. You may hear this click as the elbow is realigned and slipped back into place.

Expect your child to cry for a few moments as this will cause momentary pain. Your child should calm within a few moments and all associated pain will be gone. He will now be able to use the arm normally and remain pain free.

Tips & Warnings

  • In some cases, the procedure for setting the arm back in joint may take several attempts. Don't be alarmed if this is the case with your child.
  • In difficult cases, particularly if there has been a delay in seeking medical treatment, it may be necessary to apply a temporary splint to the arm with instructions to return for follow up treatment. The arm will generally fix itself by slipping back into place. If not, it should respond to an attempt by the doctor to put the arm back in joint easily.
  • Always seek medical treatment if you suspect Nursemaid's Elbow. Delaying treatment can make it more difficult to correct.
  • Report any signs of bruising or swelling to assist the doctor in determining if there are any other serious injuries.

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