Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Fix a Dislocated Elbow

In early July, I had the unfortunate chance of handling my first ever "emergency room" situation - at home. My 19 month old was running around the house, avoiding me because it was time for a diaper change. My sister, Audrey, was over at the time and took Little Olive's arm as ran passed. Immediately, my toddler collapsed into a little tantrum but was brought to me for her diaper change just the same.

In an odd and eerie kind of way, Audrey and I both noticed that something was not right. Little Olive was holding her left arm and crying in a strange kind of way. Even when I picked her up to console her, she was crying and saying, "Boo boo," and "All done!" quite forcefully. Audrey pointed out that her arm was definitely hurt. Little Olive was holding her elbow close to her body, and trying not to move it at all - even the slightest movement caused her to scream.

It had to be broken or dislocated. If I hadn't known better, I would have driven to the hospital.  But thankfully, my parents have handled this situation before because my two little sisters had both dislocated their elbows (several times) as young kids. So we called my mom and she was able to direct Audrey to tell me what to do.

Otherwise known as Nursemaid's Elbow, a dislocated elbow needs to be "relocated". You can do this at home, and it's not very hard.

Start by sitting face-to-face with the child. While supporting the elbow with one hand, use your other hand to straighten their arm, palm up, in front of them. Websites and videos will say this causes "slight discomfort" to your child. Um, be warned: it freaking hurts. I actually had to stop and try this part several times because Little Olive's screams were just killing me. But just do it...trying again and again causes more pain than just doing it once and getting it over with.

The next step is to fold their arm up toward their body, and then turn it over, in front of their body. Do this in one motion. You should hear/feel a "pop" as their elbow relocates back into place. Sometimes it's the simple folding of the arm, other times it's the turning. I felt the pop at the turning.

It was really amazing how quickly Little Olive recovered after this. It was as if there was no pain anymore. After cuddling for a moment, she used her injured arm to reach for a bowl of jelly beans. I'd say progress was made!

Nobody ever wants to be in a position where your child is so badly hurt, but this is an easy fix. Practice on your kid so you know what to do in the case of a dislocation. This is a great video with more information and directions on how to fix it. Let's have a safe summer! :)

8 comments:

Natalie said...

Poor L.O.!!! What a blessing for her that you knew what to do, though! And yeah, your description is quite accurate... it really does freaking hurt, to move it slightly or to "pop" it back in. Most kids scream until it goes back in, but once it's in, it should feel significantly better and they will stop crying in a minute or two.

I certainly can't blame them for screaming, either... Having to put my dislocated hips back into place is something that I'd rather not think about doing ever again, even though it happens pretty frequently. It's really scary when it happens when I'm alone with the kids, although my brain knows I can do it. The good news is that ruta is helping it happen, as well as the constant trying-to-dislocate pain I always had, MUCH less often this pregnancy. :) Still, I think it is still more stressful to try to do it on a little one because they don't understand why you have to hurt them so much to make them feel better. :( But it's a very important technique for every parent to know, and will save you the extra wait time and discomfort of hanging out in an ER!! Good job, Maggs. :)

i.ikeda said...

You're a lot braver than I.... If there's one thing I can't handle is injury! Of any kind. This doesn't sound complicated, but still, I cringe at the sound of cracking knuckles, and would faint having to do this. *sigh*

Natalie said...

I need to stop commenting while I'm overseeing children's squabbles at the same time. When I re-read my comments, I think... what the heck was I typing?! :P
Forgive the grammar, or lack thereof. ;)

Mountain Mama said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing this. If that happened to my son, (and I'm really surprised it hasn't yet because he's so darn wild at times), I wouldn't have known I could fix it myself. You may have just saved us an unneeded future visit to the ER and saved my son the aggravation of waiting in pain for a doc to fix his arm. Seriously...THANK YOU!! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you for posting this! It is a chronic problem in our 2 year old...your directions were perfect.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to thank you for posting this also. I'm the father of a 2 year old little girl that has disloacted her elbow twice. the first time we spent hours in the emergency room, the second time,today, I handled it myself after reading this posting and watching a youtube video. thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I did the same today to my 19mth old though I was stopping him from running on the road I knew what had happened when his arm hung down and he couldn't lift it to take a lollie in the sore arm ..the most painless way to fix a dislocated elbow is to take their shirt off and put it back on they then like natural try and push their arm thru the hole putting their own elbow back into place

Corine Traina said...

Poor Olive! That must have hurt back then. It’s really a good thing that you know what you’re doing with correcting the dislocation, and it’s even better that you’re sharing your experience to your readers, just in case they might have the same problem (knock on wood). But really, if this happened to me, I’d drive straight to my orthopedic because I’d freak out in a heartbeat. I’d never try this myself because of the fear of doing something wrong and making it worse. But it's good that you have the courage and know-how to do it yourself. There should be more people in the world like you!

Corine Traina @ US Health Works