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A Health Risk for Children: Nursemaid Elbow

A Health Risk for Children: Nursemaid Elbow

You know that game you used to love as a kid where you'd give both of your hands to two bigger people, and they'd count to three and swing you high up in the air? And you'd ask for it over and over and over again. Did you know that for little children, this can lead to an injury? And not just this game, but any yanking of the arm in general.

We just arrived home, and like usual, my twins made their way to the front door and waited patiently for me to unlock it. Usually, after I open the door, the twins will kneel down to climb over the little step made by the threshold of the door. However, usually, to avoid them getting their pants super dirty, I pick them both up by their hands, one of their hands in one of my hands, and lift them both up over the little step at the same time. This particular day, I lifted one of my twins this way, and instead of quickly putting her feet down on the floor, she kept them up and turned a little bit. And...POP. Upon hearing a noise that sounded as if someone was cracking their knuckles, I thought, "what was that?" She was very upset afterwards, but kind of in a "I'm tired" way. It was their nap time so I didn't think anything more of it. But, she wasn't sleeping well. After her nap time, she went to eat and wouldn't use her arm. I started looking at it to see what hurt and determined it must be her wrist, and I probably sprained it. I BROKE MY BABY!! I felt awful. My poor sweetheart. I called the nurse at her pediatrician's office, told her what happened and asked if I needed to be seen for this. She said I should go in because it's probably her elbow. I was sure it wasn't her elbow; I had checked it. She said an elbow injury is very hard to detect and it's probably nursemaid elbow. She told me they usually pop it back in place in the office, and if it were her, she would go in because she didn't want her to sleep with that injury. First though, we had my older daughter's dance class. While at dance, I was talking to other moms there who had dealt with this same issue before. So, I checked my twin again to make sure it was her wrist. After further investigating found that it was, in fact, her elbow. As you can imagine, we went to the doctor right after class. The doctor did some twisting and turning movements while my twin SCREAMED, and screamed and screamed. What mother likes to hear their kid scream in pain? NO MOTHER EVER. It was awful. The doctor didn't hear it pop back in place, so brought in a different doctor. She did the same thing, screaming ensued, and she didn't hear a pop either. BUT, she felt very confident that she got it back in place. She told me that it usually takes a few minutes, but then she should use their arm again. My twin did not. They had me go home, and said she would be 100% fine by morning, and if she wasn't, then to call and check in with them. The next morning, she was a little better, but not 100% fine. I called the doctor who told me to do several movements to her arm, had me ask her to lift her arm above her head, and also had me try to get her to pick up things with her hurt arm/hand. She could do some, but not well, and not all of them. The doctor was a little surprised, but told me to give it the day and if she wasn't 100% the next morning, then I'd have to go back in. THANKFULLY, she was completely fine by the next morning, and it hasn't seemed to bug her at all since then. However, I've learned a great lesson and I'm not sure all parents know about it, so let me enlighten you. You should NEVER pull on your child's arm by pulling on their hand. WAY easier said than done, especially if you have twins. How on earth do you help two kids at the same time without this pretty simple maneuver? Well, now, I always wrap my arm around their belly, and our lives are just a little bit trickier in that sense. BUT, no one is broken, and that is key. What happens is that one side of the elbow separates from the other side, and part of the ligament that wraps around the bone, slips off and gets stuck between the bones. EEEEEEK!! From Rady's Children's hospital in San Diego, they state, "It usually happens in kids 1 to 4-years-old because their ligaments (the elastic-like bands that hold bones together) are loose and bones are not yet fully formed. This makes it easier for some bones to slip in and out of place. As kids get older, their ligaments tighten and become thicker, bones enlarge and harden, and the risk of nursemaid’s elbow decreases." The doctor showed me a picture of what it looks like---cue the queasiness. I was not cut out to be a doctor, and I'm so glad there are people who are!
 After the whole ordeal, my husband asked me if I could fix it if it happened again now that I saw the doctor do it. HECK NO. Listen to all their screams while trying to get the arm back in place? No, no. However, I did meet someone who watched a YouTube video to fix their child's Nursemaid elbow. If you can do that, more power to you, but I'll go with the doctor. I'm not THAT confident. :) So, don't pull, don't jerk, and don't swing a child up by the hands because it puts stress on the elbows and can cause this dislocation. This can also happen if they break their fall with their arm, or roll over in an awkward way.

This never happened with my older daughter, and hasn't happened with my other twin, so it doesn't happen to ALL children. If it hasn't happened to you, try these tips to make sure it never does.

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