How to Care for Your Child with Pulled Elbow

This leaflet will provide you with information about pulled elbow symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

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pulled elbow

What it is Pulled Elbow and how it occurs?

  • This is a common condition that happen in younger children normally under 4 years old; because the tissues holding the elbow joint together are loose in young children.
  • It occurs when the child is pulled or lifted by the arm causing the soft tissue to be trapped between the bones in the child’s elbow.
  • After the age of 5 years old the ligaments and soft tissue around the elbow get stronger and tighter making it less likely for the pulled elbow to happen.

What are the symptoms of Pulled Elbow?

Your child may experience the following:

  • Pain in the affected arm
  • Unable to move or flex his/her elbow
  • Hang his/her arm loosely by the side of his body
  • Avoid using his/her affected arm

How is Pulled Elbow diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you few questions about your child health and how the injury happened, then examine your child. X-ray is normally not required

How is Pulled Elbow treated?

Your doctor will gently move the joint to release the trapped soft tissue. This may hurt your child but normally will get better within 5-10 minutes after which your child will be observed and allow to use his arm. If your child uses his/her arm normally, this mean the trapped soft tissue has been released.

How is Pulled elbow prevented?

To prevent your child from pulled elbow, please ensure the following:

  • Do not pull hard on your child's arm or lift them up by the hand, wrist, or forearm.
  • Lift your child up by holding them from the upper arms or under the arms.

Go to the Emergency Department if your child:

  • Is not using his/her arm normally
  • Swelling or deformity in your child’s arm