A dislocated elbow, commonly referred to in children as a nursemaid's elbow, occurs when the bones of the elbow joint are pulled out of alignment and partially dislocate. This condition is most often caused by a sudden pulling on the hand or forearm that causes the radius, one of the bones in the forearm, to slip out of place at the elbow joint. Although it may occur at any age, a dislocated elbow is more common in children, especially those under the age of four, as their bones and muscles are still developing and are not as strong as the bones of adults.
Causes of a Dislocated Elbow
In young children, a dislocated elbow is commonly caused by sudden pulling of the hand or arm, or lifting or swinging of a child by the arms. In adults, a dislocated elbow may be caused by a fall, a sports related injury, or a traumatic injury such as an injury caused by a motor vehicle accident.
Symptoms of a Dislocated Elbow
Symptoms of a dislocated elbow may include intense pain and the inability to move the arm. Pain is often experienced immediately after the injury occurs. The joint may appear obviously distorted and bruising may appear. It is important to seek immediate medical attention for this condition, in order to relieve pain and prevent any permanent damage from occurring.
Diagnosis of a Dislocated Elbow
A dislocated elbow is diagnosed through a physical examination. The doctor can often diagnose this condition just by the appearance of the elbow, however, X-rays may also be performed to ensure that no bones have been broken.
Treatment of a Dislocated Elbow
Treatment may include medication for pain and in most cases, a doctor will manipulate the bones back into their proper alignment through a procedure known as reduction. A splint or sling may be necessary for a few weeks after the bones are realigned. In severe cases, physical therapy may be required to help the individual regain strength and range of motion to the joint.
- National Institutes of Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine
Back to top