A pulled elbow (also known as nursemaid’s elbow) is a common, painful injury generally among children under four years old but occasionally older. It occurs when the outer part of the elbow becomes dislocated or slips out of its joint. This happens because the child’s elbow joint is loose enough to separate slightly when her arm is pulled to full length (while being lifted, yanked, or swung by the hand or wrist, or if she falls on her outstretched arm). The nearby tissue slides into the space created by the stretching and becomes trapped after the joint returns to its normal position.

A nursemaid’s elbow injury usually doesn’t cause swelling, but the child will complain that the elbow hurts, or cry when her arm is moved. A child will typically hold her arm close to the side, with the elbow slightly bent and the palm turned toward the body. If...

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