Diagnosis & Treatments

How does a doctor know if my child has nursemaid’s elbow?

Your child’s doctor will perform a physical exam of your child’s arm, looking for places where the arm may be tender (particularly in the head of the radius). Unless your doctor suspects another injury, X-rays will not be needed.

How Boston Children’s Hospital treats nursemaid’s elbow

Specific treatment for nursemaid’s elbow will be determined by your child’s physician based on the following:

  • your child’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • the extent of the condition
  • your child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • acetaminophen (for pain), as directed by your child’s physician
  • prompt medical treatment while providing reassurance for your child

Once the elbow has sustained this type of injury, it is more likely to recur. If this happens again, call your child’s physician or return to the emergency department for further evaluation and treatment. Most children outgrow the tendency for nursemaid’s elbow by the age of 5.

Preventing nursemaid’s elbow

  • Lift young children from under the arms.
  • Never lift young children by the hands or wrists.
  • Never swing toddlers by the arms or wrists.