How to fix a nursemaid’s elbow

Saturday night, Anna’s elbow/arm was really hurting. She couldn’t recall doing anything to it, nor could anyone else. I had taken her shopping for some fabric for her sewing class, and she didn’t have any interest in anything by the time we got there but was just holding her arm with her other hand to support it.

The first thing we did was to treat it as if it were a “nursemaid’s elbow.” I learned this helpful information back when Sarah and Nathan were babies, when I attended a class taught by our nurse practitioner.

When someone yanks a child’s arm, it may pull their elbow out of socket (dislocating the elbow joint). Thankfully, it’s not typically a seriously injury, but it hurts like crazy. You turn their arm so that the palm faces upward, and with one hand under their elbow joint, you gently move the face-up palm to their shoulder. It will really hurt, but it should pop things back into place. Sometimes you do it a couple of times in a row. I showed Anna how to do it, but it’d been so many years since I had done it, I forgot to put my hand under her elbow to feel if it popped back into place. Anna did it herself with no problem (but she’s also not a toddler!).

Anna’s arm is better now, but the next morning she started throwing up. She has had stomach flu the past few days, with Peter joining the party this morning. Oh my. Thank goodness the elbow got resolved so quickly!

If you ever have yanked a child by the arm and a nursemaid elbow resulted, you learn quickly that gentleness is a great way to go when interacting with children. It’s important to be firm, and children can be very strong and strong-willed, so if they want to go one way but you need them to go another, sometimes it’s better to just pick them up (while they’re kicking or screaming) and hold them instead of trying to yank them the way they need to go. If you forget, the tears in your child’s eyes from a hurting elbow quickly remind you!


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