There was some drama at chez Strawberry and Nutella a few days ago. Being the contrary and volatile toddler that he is, Curly was refusing to walk towards our house from the nearby playground. He kept turning around, or stopping, so Strawberry took his hand to keep him headed the right way. And he did a full out yank of his arm and threw himself to the ground. We heard a slight “pop” and sure enough, there were screams and tears of real pain.
We scooped him up and tried to comfort him as we carried him home. But he was inconsolable. He screamed if we tried to touch his shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand, and wasn’t using that arm. We tried applying ice, but there wasn’t any swelling and after about 5 minutes, he calmed down and clearly wanted to go down for his nap. He fell asleep instantly, on his back with his arm stretched out to the side, a very unusual position for him.
The worried moms headed for Dr. Go.gle*. I remembered being prone to dislocated elbows as a child and that the fix was easily done at home by a parent. Sure enough, it’s a very common injury in toddlers, most often called Nursemaid’s Elbow and frequently happens just the way it did to us. The treatment** is easy too, and we knew that if the injury were more serious, attempting it would be unlikely to cause any more damage. It was worth a try. If it didn’t work, we would head straight to urgent care.
When Curly woke up, still in pain and not using his arm, we sat him on Strawberry’s lap. I took hold of the elbow of the injured arm in one hand, and his hand in the other. Holding the elbow gently but firmly in place, I faced his palm up, then rotated his hand towards his body and sure enough, “POP”. Followed by a scream, of course. But he was easily calmed with hugs and some juice and 5 minutes later he was clapping his hands in delight, clearly pain free!
Some illustrations of the injury and treatment.
I recall this happening to me often as a kid, and sources seem to indicate that once it happens it’s likely to reoccur, although I hope not. It is awful to see your child in pain.
* When in doubt, call your doctor or seek emergency medical care.
** I used the pronation treatment, verses the supination treatment, based on the evidence presented in this study.