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Kiddie Wellness: Nursemaid Elbow

Who doesn't love being swept off their feet? While lil ones adore the ride that ensues when adults swing them, it's best to leave tots on the ground. Swooping wee ones up while holding their hands can cause their elbow bones to be pulled partially out of joint, a condition known as Nursemaid Elbow. According to WebMD, this is common in small children. It said:

  • A temporary condition without permanent effects, it can be quite frightening to parents who find their child lacking the ability to use his or her upper arm.
  • Specifically, a portion of soft tissue, whose function is to hold bones together, is pulled between 2 areas of the bones that make up the elbow joint. The involved bony areas are the radial neck and head of the radius bone in the forearm and the capitellum portion of the humerus, or upper arm bone. Movement of the elbow in this condition results in pain and keeps the child from using the upper arm.
  • Typically, this type of injury occurs in children aged 1-4 years but has occurred in infants aged 6-12 months as well. As children grow, their bones become larger and more defined. So this injury is rarely seen in children older than 6 years.


Join The Conversation
Shosh Shosh 9 years
This happened to my daughter when she had just turned 2. My husband was holding her hand on some stairs when she slipped and, rather than let go and let her fall down the stairs, he held on to her. We knew immediately that something had gone wrong and rushed her to the ER at the children's hospital where I work. The doc knew right away what was wrong, put it back in place, and my daughter never knew the doc was even touching her. I was told at that time that once it happens, it can happen again more easily, so now we know never to pull her by her hands. We've also had to tell her other caregivers not to do the same. I had no idea it was so common until it happened to us.
nicole121482 nicole121482 9 years
This happened to my daughter twice also and we wound up in ER both times. Before then, I had never heard of it and I could remember getting swung around and around as a child and it never happening to me. Now I can't watch other parents do it to their kids because I just envision the screaming and trip to the ER that will follow...
sofi sofi 9 years
I always cringe when I see this. Only when I had my kids and tried to do this did I realize how dangerous it can be. Fortunately, we never had any injury like this (they are too heavy and big now to even attempt).
litbear221 litbear221 9 years
This actually happened to me when I was either 3 or 4 and it happened more than once. The one time i remember it happening i remember it being the scariest thing ever. It happened because my friends dad was swinging us by our arms in a circle and it just popped out. To this day i have never had anyother problems with my arms or elbows. It was just a scary experience!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
This happened to my niece about 5-6 times, poor thing. Once my husband did it giving her a piggy back ride, i have never seen a man look more horrified!
jessie jessie 9 years
if its common for your kids, which it was for mine, talk to your pediatrician about teaching you how to pop it back in. i don't want to describe it, easier when a doc shows you how. you know when it comes out of joint, by the way the act and when they don't move their arm. my ped showed me, told me that way we didn't have to bother with e.r. anymore, because it really wasn't a emergency. so no more horrendous bills! :faint:
nevadamtnbear nevadamtnbear 9 years
Our son had it happen when he was about 20 months (only once so far) daddy and him were wrestling in the doorway. My hubby actually was positioning him for a somersault when it happened, no wild swinging, no feet off the ground. It was so horrible (not to mention the $500 *surgical* bill from the ER to put it back in place). The doctor told us that what happens is that the tendon or ligament (can't remember which anymore) that runs on the outside of the elbow slips into the joint because the nubs (or whatever you call them) a the ends of the bones aren't fully developed which allows the tendon/ligament to slip into the joint as the joint is moved out of place. OUCH!!! He said it's really quite common, and apparently so.
luckyme luckyme 9 years
It's happened to my niece two times. Both times she was at the ER. Not fun! But, we have all learned our lesson. Prior to her, I had never even heard of it. Not one of my young cousins or any of the kids I ever babysat had this happen. Oh, and from what the ER doctor told my BIL, the thumb has to be in an upright position for it to happen.
jessie jessie 9 years
this has happened to all three of my children. for our first, he was taken to e.r. twice. the doc actually showed us how to fix it so we didn't have to bring him in anymore. it makes me cringe to see parents swing their children around like that. the last time it happend our daughter was 4, it kills me to put her arm in postion, but as soon as i do, within in 10 minutes its like it never happend.
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