Nursemaid’s Elbow by Marianne Leffert

MarianneChildren ages one to four seem to be the most active out of any age group; running, climbing, jumping, and falling are all favorite pastimes for toddlers. Did you know that small children are very prone to developing a common early childhood injury called nursemaid’s elbow? Nursemaid’s elbow is a partial dislocation of the elbow joint, which usually happens when the ligament slips out of place. Nursemaid’s elbow got its name from girls who had to carry large buckets of milk and ended up dislocating their elbows. In today’s society, it most often happens to children between the ages of one and four and more often in girls. Why does it happen in young children? The ligaments of toddlers are not fully formed yet, meaning that what holds the bones together is loose, making it easier for bones to slip out of place.

What can cause it? Multiple factors can cause nursemaid’s elbow:

  • Pulling a child up by the hands or forearms, which puts stress on the ligaments, making them prone to slipping
  • Swinging toddlers by the arm
  • Jerking a child’s arm when walking
  • When a child breaks his falls with his arm
  • Rolling over the wrong way

A typical warning sign is pain in the elbow, and the protection and/or cradling of the arm. A medical professional is able to slip the ligament back into place, usually without any medication necessary. While prevention may not be easy, nursemaid’s elbow is easy to treat, and does not cause long-term damage.


The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.


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