PARENTS: Please Read & Spare Children This Pain!! It's Called Nurse Maid's Elbow, & It CAN Be Avoided!!

Dec 15, 2000 (Updated Dec 17, 2000)

I have a 21 month old son that has made many trips to the doctor and even the Emergency Room, but last night was the biggest scare so far. We were at a church gathering and my little boy was holding my hand (so he couldn't run off as he is accustomed to doing if he can get away) and I was talking to another adult. I wasn't really watching him because I had a hold on him, but he wriggled and squirmed and ended up hurting himself. When he holds my hand, his arm is straight up because he is so much shorter than me (he has to reach UP to hold my hand). He pulled and tugged trying to get away, and at the same time he was twisting around. Well, I felt his arm all of a sudden go limp, and he began to cry and scream. I let go and bent down to console him....not knowing what was wrong with him at the time.

The Story - What Happened - If This Part Disinterests You...Skip It

He continued to cry (loudly) and I knew something was wrong. I noticed he was not moving that arm, so I tried to coax him with a toy and he wouldn't move it. He would scream if you even touched it, so I picked him up and we headed to the hospital right away. I wanted to make sure he wasn't just upset because I wouldn't let him go (he has a temper <g>) but when he continued to cry to no avail, I knew something was indeed wrong.

On the way to the hospital, he continued to cry, and nothing consoled him. I thought "Dear God, my baby has broken his arm or dislocated his shoulder". I began to cry too because I couldn't imagine what I would do if his arm was broken. I knew they would want his clothes off to X-Ray him, and I had decided they could CUT the clothes off because no way was I going to torture him by taking his shirt off his arm. Thank God it didn't even come to that.

We got into the ER and the nurse immediately came to help us because my baby was screaming (obviously in pain). She asked me what happened and I told her. She said they see this a lot and it was probably his elbow. I was like, "his elbow?" because I thought surely it was his shoulder. But she got us back to the pediatric unit, and we sat to wait on a doctor. About 2 minutes passed and a doctor came into the waiting room (my son is STILL screaming and we are waiting to be signed in). He asked us if this was the baby with the hurt arm, and we said yes. He had me turn Tyler around on my lap facing him (which made him scream even more because he was laying on my shoulder VERY STILL). The doctor grabbed his arm and put his fingers firmly around his elbow and bent his arm upward. Tyler let out a torturous scream and then he laid back on me and cried for about 1 minute, then he looked at me, kissed me and hopped down to go play with the toys there in the waiting area!!! I couldn't believe it!

I was so relieved I immediately began to cry...I was so glad my baby was okay! Not only okay, but he was right back to his old self that fast!

The Diagnosis

The doctor sat down with us and explained what had happened to my baby. He said this is very common in kids from ages 1 to 3. It is basically a dislocated elbow, but it is also commonly called nurse maid's elbow. What this means is, the radius (bone in the arm that ends/joints in the elbow) becomes abnormally positioned beneath the ligament around the elbow.

I know now that this can happen very easily, and unintentionally. If you have a child between ages 1 and 3, PLEASE be careful with them! You can avoid them going through this pain and the scare of it all.

NOTE: This is a very common occurrence with 1 to 3 year olds because the ligaments around a baby's elbows are not as strong as an older child's or adult's. The risk of dislocating the elbow greatly decreases after age 5 and 6.

Here is some information that may help you (wish I'd known all this before last night!):

- Pulling child by hand or wrist
- Lifting child by hand or wrist

For example: Obviously picking up a child by a hand or wrist can cause it, but think about this...sometimes when I am holding my son's hand, he may fall or intentionally drop to the floor (like if he's mad) and then he's dangling by his hand. THIS can also cause the elbow to dislocate.

Sometimes when we go out, my husband and I will each hold one of Tyler's hands. While walking we may come to a step and we will both lift him up by his hands onto the step saying "Wheeee"...well not anymore! This is putting strain on the elbows too and can cause dislocation.

- Immediate crying
- Arm/elbow pain
- Refuses to use arm
- Arm rests against side/abdomen very still
- Can move shoulder

You will know if something is wrong with your child, and if these are the symptoms, it could be nurse maid's elbow.

Treatment should be administered by a Doctor or Healthcare Professional. DO NOT attempt to relocate the elbow by yourself! It could result in permanent damage or cut off of blood flow to the lower arm. A doctor will relocate the elbow, which takes only a few seconds.

If treatment is not given promptly, it can result in permanent inability to extend the elbow.

If this does happen to your child, you must be extra careful for 2 to 3 weeks after it has been corrected, as it is much easier for this to reoccur after it has happened one time.

After the doctor relocated my son's elbow, he was FINE! You'd never know anything was even wrong with him! No soreness, no pain, no nothing. He is completely back to normal, and did not require any medication or treatment after the relocation. This was a blessing, but I hate that he went through this at all.

- Lift child UNDER THE ARMS (under armpits)
- Lift child by gripping the upper arms (both at same time)
- DO NOT pull, lift or "tug" on child's hands or wrists!

This was a scary ordeal for all of us, especially my son. The doctor said that "yes he was in pain", but a child will also cry because of the frustration of not being able to move or use the arm. I know now how to prevent this, and I will be so very careful from now on. I never realized this could happen at all, but I surely didn't realize how EASILY it could happen!

If you have a little one, PLEASE, PLEASE be careful how you pick them up and/or lift them for any reason! This CAN be avoided!

Thanks for reading! ;-)

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