The scientific name for “nursemaid’s elbow” is subluxation of the radial head in the child’s elbow joint.
As we know, three bones converge at the elbow: the humerus, the ulna and the radius.
When the head of the radius is pulled out of its usual place of insertion in the elbow joint due to a traction movement, it is not able to perform its normal movement.
This is why the child is left with the arm immobile along the body, or with the forearm in 90º flexion.
This is a very common injury in children from 2 to 6 years of age, who are the ones who usually hold hands with an adult during walks.
Its causes are diverse, for example when the child does not want to walk and you “pull” on his arm to encourage him and help him to walk.
Or when the child stumbles and we give him a tug to prevent him from falling. It can also be the child himself who causes this injury after a false move or fall.
Why does this injury occur?
The ligaments are much looser during this infantile stage, which is why it is easier for the bones to slip between the ligaments and slip out of place during traction movements.
Often the pain passes quickly and the child stops crying, but will keep the arm immobile. It is then that adults come to the emergency room when they see the immobilisation of the arm.
And in fact, the diagnosis of nursemaid’s elbow is simple to make: a careful examination of the arm is all that is needed, without the need for an X-ray.
Treatment should be immediate, and a qualified professional should be called in to perform the appropriate manoeuvre to put the elbow back in position.
Did you know about this type of injury? Find out more about the importance of paediatric physiotherapy with us.