Parent Pro Tip: How To Fix A Nursemaid’s Elbow
A DIY guide to fixing your kid’s nursemaid’s elbow.
Nursemaid’s elbow, also known as radial head subluxation, is a common injury that occurs in young children when their outstretched arm is pulled or twisted. It’s most commonly seen in children between the ages of 1 and 3, but can happen to kids as old as 6.
The injury occurs when the radius bone in the forearm becomes partially dislocated from the elbow joint. When this happens, the annular ligament – the ligament that holds the radial head in place – slips and gets trapped in the joint between the radial head and the capitulum of the humerus (the upper arm).
This can cause pain and swelling in the elbow, and the child may be unable to move the affected arm. The child will usually hold it slightly flexed with the wrist pronated (hand turned downward).
Fortunately, nursemaid’s elbow can often be treated at home with a simple technique called reduction. This involves gently pushing the radius bone back into place in the elbow joint.
How to reduce a nursemaid’s elbow
The good news is that a nursemaid’s elbow is (usually) pretty easy to fix! You won’t need any sedation or medication, and x-rays aren’t generally necessary.
There are two methods to performing a reduction: hyperpronation and supination-flexion. We’ll start with the hyperpronation technique, as it’s been shown to be more effective and less painful for the child, and then move on to the supination-flexion technique only if the hyperpronation technique isn’t successful.
To perform a hyperpronation reduction, follow these steps:
- Hold the child’s arm with one hand and gently flex the elbow with the other hand.
- With the fingers of the hand holding the arm, apply pressure to the radial head on the outer side of the elbow joint.
- Gently rotate the arm so that the thumb of the hand holding the arm is pointing up.
- Slowly straighten the elbow while maintaining pressure on the radius bone.
If that’s not successful, here’s how to perform a supination-flexion reduction:
- Hold the child’s elbow with your thumb on top of the radial head and your other hand gripping their wrist, with their palm facing down.
- Rotate the child’s forearm so that the palm faces up.
- Gently traction (pull) the forearm away from the body.
- Quickly bend the elbow and you should feel a click under your thumb on the radial head.
It is important to note that these techniques should only be attempted if you’re confident in your ability to do so, and only if the child is cooperative. If the child is in severe pain or if the techniques don’t work the first time, it’s best to seek the help of a medical professional.
If the reduction is successful, the child’s arm should be immediately usable and pain-free. However, it’s still important to have the child evaluated by a doctor to ensure that the injury has been properly treated and to rule out any other injuries.
Preventing nursemaid’s elbow
In order to prevent nursemaid’s elbow from happening again, parents should be mindful of how they are picking up and carrying their children, and avoid pulling or twisting their arms.
Need professional help? There’s a reason we were named Top Milwaukee Chiropractor of 2022 by both the Journal Sentinel and Shepherd Express. Give us a call at 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment online.