What is Nursemaid Elbow Syndrome?
For a lot of children, one of their favorite games they used to play with your parents was having them hold onto both of their hands or arms, and as they’d count to three, they would lift and swing you up high up into the air over and over as if you were flying. We think of little kids as having pretty resilient bones, but this fun and warmhearted scenario doesn’t always end up favorably.
Did you know that for little children, this game can lead to an injury? But, it is not just this game, but any scenario when the arms are being held onto or yanked in general.
While many parents and caregivers may enjoy taking a child’s hands and wrists and swinging them as they walk in-between, doing so can result in injury. This common childhood injury is known as nursemaid’s elbow syndrome, or radial head subluxation (RHS).
Nursemaid’s elbow syndrome can be a very common injury to young children. When we are young, our bones and ligaments are not fully developed yet. As we develop into adults, our bones form and grow with us. In other words, our ligaments tighten and become thicker, bones enlarge and harden. Therefore, when we do get older the risk of getting injuries such as nursemaid’s elbow decreases.
However, kids are often rough and active, obviously making them prone to injuries such as sprains and broken bones, commonly to the arms. Children are also susceptible to having bones slip out of place.
Like the name implies, in many cases children are under the care of some sort of caregiver or a babysitter of some sort, like a nurse does in a hospital. When this scenario of the caregiver picking up the child the wrong way occurs, it results in nursemaid’s elbow, or pulled elbow, an accidental injury that occurs when the bones in the elbow partially pop out and dislocate. What happens is that one side of the elbow separates from the other side, and part of the ligament that wraps around the bone slips off and gets stuck between the bones.
Many parents and caregivers are unaware that swinging a child by the wrists or hands can really harm and injure their child. It is important that parents and caregivers know the danger of swinging a child by the wrists or hands. Bones are fragile and can break when there is too much force. Even though it is an accident from having fun and playing around, if not careful, more severe complications can occur.
You should discourage anybody jerking or yanking a child’s arm. Pulling or grabbing a child by the hand or wrist can cause dislocation. It doesn’t take much force for a child’s elbow to be pulled out of place, and it just takes a little miscalculation to cause a child a lot of pain.
Nursemaid’s elbow syndrome is painful but can be fixed with treatment. In most cases, an orthopedic doctor will gently move the bones back into normal position, by performing a procedure known as reduction. A joint reduction can be quite painful, albeit quick, and then the healing process can take place.
The doctor will hold the child’s wrist or forearm with the palm of the hand facing upwards. While putting pressure near the top of the radius bone, one of the bones in the forearm other than the ulna, the doctor will slowly bend the elbow in an attempt to pop or click the elbow joint back into place. Once the bones are put back into place, the pain and discomfort subside. If the injury is more severe, surgery may be required.
To learn more about nursemaid’s elbow syndrome, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs at (719) 623-1050 to request an appointment with our orthopedic surgeons, or request an appointment online.