Pulled Elbow: All you need to know

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A Pulled Elbow or Nursemaid’s elbow in children is preventable and easy to treat in Gurgaon, Delhi NCR.

Ever wondered why a young child is complaining of elbow pain, especially, in the age group of 1 to 7 years. Well, the chances are that the child is suffering from a dislocated elbow or a pulled elbow.  But it can be prevented while it is easily treatable by a pediatric orthopedist.  So, a visit to a pediatric orthopedic doctor in Gurgaon, Delhi NCRis essential to reset the elbow and restore arm movement while relieving the child from discomfort and pain.

Read on to know what causes a nursemaid’s elbow, its prevention and treatment.

 Symptoms of a pulled elbow

  • The child refuses to move the arm and prefers the injured arm to stay still on the side.
  • The child will also refuse to rotate or bend or use the arm on account of pain and discomfort.

This condition is also known as Nursemaid’s elbow or as radial head subluxation in medical terms.  It is a common injury but requires a doctor to reset it the right way. 

Causes of a pulled elbow

  • Sudden jerking or forceful pulling of the child’s arm can lead to pulled elbow conditions.

Parents and caregivers are likely to perform this action if they want to prevent a dangerous situation or ensure the child steps onto the curb or climbs stairs.

  • Swinging of the child by only the arms or hands when playing

The bones and muscles of the children are still growing and developing, and hence the chances of the bones being pulled out are high leading to dislocation and pain.

Falling on the elbow or outstretched hands do not cause a nursemaid’s elbow condition.

Anatomy of the elbow and pulled elbow condition

The elbow comprises of humerus – upper arm bone and radius and ulna – in the forearm. The strong ligaments located on the inner and outer sides of the elbow ensure firm placement of the elbow joint. The joint in the upper and the forearm enable bending of the arm and is known as the humeroulnar joint.  The joint along the radius of the upper arm enables the rotation of the arm and is referred to as radiocapitellar joint.

In medical terms, the pulled elbow is referred to as the partial separation of the radiocapitellar joint. The annular ligament that surrounds the radius of the elbow joint can be loose in certain children who then face recurring pulled elbow condition.

The tissues or the ligaments that join the bones with each are still in a developing stage and hence tender so even a slight force in the joint area causes a shift or a partial dislocation of the joint.

How to treat a nursemaid’s elbow or pulled elbow?

It is essential to get a thorough medical investigation done. If required, then an x-ray imaging will be suggested to check the extent of dislocation. In most cases, the doctor can reset or realign the radial bone in its original place.

The resetting process lasts a couple of minutes but is likely to cause pain and distress in the child. The child can begin to use the elbow normally or after a few days as per his or her comfort.

In case of persistent complain in the elbow, further investigation is conducted to check for a fracture or any other type of injury.

Precautions for preventing nursemaid’s elbow

  • The recurrence of nursemaids’ elbow is high in children with loose joints.
  • Remember to pick or lift the child by their armpits as it is safer and prevents pulled elbows. Also, condition the caregivers, grandparents or other siblings, relatives accordingly about the right method of lifting children.
  • Children below 5 years of age are likely to develop pulled elbow conditions on account of their growing stage. Once the children cross 5 years of age, the chances of pulled elbow conditions reduce greatly.

Care at home after treatment

  • A treated elbow should not cause further discomfort and the child should be normal soon.
  • If required, the doctor may prescribe painkillers for a couple of days.
  • If the elbow condition does not normalize in a day or two, then a re-evaluation is essential. A pulled elbow condition does not cause long term harm to the child.
Dr. Ratnav Ratan
Dr. Ratnav Ratan
Pediatric Orthopedist and Sports Medicine specialist

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