Pulled Elbow: Cause, Diagnosis and Treatment

Pulled elbow is a condition in which the head of radius bone is partially jerked from it's attaching ligament (orbicular ligament) by a sudden force acting along the longitudinal axis of the forearm.

The ligament is trapped between the capitulum and head of radius.

Before reading further please see the Elbow Joint Anatomy to get a better understanding (skip if you have already done so).

It is also known as slipped elbow or nursemaid's elbow. This injury is commonly

  • between 2 to 3 years of age (very rare after 7 years)
  • seen more in females (65%)
  • seen more in the left side

Symptoms include

  • history of sudden longitudinal force applied to the limb, such as
    1. a child suddenly slips off a step while the parent is holding the hand
    2. a full sleeved cloth is pulled off with a jerk
    3. a child is lifted with one hand
  • a audible snap like sound may have been heard
  • the child uses the effected limb less
  • the limb is held in extension with the back of the hand facing forward
  • if you try to move the elbow then the child cries out in pain

X rays are usually normal. They are done to rule out other injuries.

Treatment is by manipulation so that the palm faces forward and then the elbow is flexed maximally keeping a thumb on the head of radius.

Anatomy of Pulled Elbow

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the injury occur again?

Yes the injury can occur again if the child is handled in the same manner.

How can this injury be prevented?

Always lift a child gently. Never jerk. Best way to lift a child is by placing both hands under the child's shoulders.

I hope the information provided was helpful. If you have any query you can ask me at the contact me page.

This page was last updated on 11th February 2009.

Other causes of elbow pain...

Radial Head Fracture

Elbow Dislocation

Olecranon Fracture

Tennis Elbow

Golfers Elbow

Olecranon Bursitis

Little League Elbow

Supracondylar Fracture

Lateral Condyle Fracture

Elbow Fracture

Elbow Joint Anatomy

Go back from Pulled Elbow to Elbow Pain


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