A “pulled elbow” lands our baby in hospital

To stop our daughter landing on her face in the shops I grabbed onto her arm. It was meant to stop her from falling and hurting herself and instead she hurt herself and landed up needing to go to hospital. 

Our little girl’s lower arm (the radius bone) had slipped out of its normal position at the elbow joint. 

We knew something was wrong because 1) she was crying and 2) was keeping her hand and fingers still (which is very unusual for any active 1 year old) and 3) wouldn’t use her hand for anything, even to take her favourite toy or food. 

As she was in her car seat, hadn’t napped properly and is teething the crying is normal. We decided to get home, get her out her car seat and see if she would take anything offered to that hand. She wouldn’t. 

Off my husband went to the emergency department of our local hospital, Sydney’s Royal North Shore. We know this hospital to be great with kids and adults alike. And it was a Saturday afternoon so of course we couldn’t get a doc appointment. 

My husband was seen, after a while (thank goodness he had the foresight to pack formula and he favourite toy to keep her calm) and the doctor knew immediately what was wrong – she’d pulled her radius out of her elbow. She didn’t even need an X-Ray. 

According to the doc that saw our little girl, it is a very common injury amongst children under the age of 5. So common, that this hospital sees 2 – 3 of these injuries daily (again, according to the doc that saw our daughter). 

It took a second for her to roll her arm round and pop it back into the elbow. As soon as he had done it, she was off to touch all the toys with the hand she hadn’t wanted to use.

It’s such a quick fix and a common injury but it still is horrible and unsettling because you don’t know what is wrong. 

We were given literature from the hospital (evidentially obtained from Kids Health Info – RCH, Melbourne). I want to share this so if this happens to your child you know what to look for and what it is so you don’t panic. 

  • A pulled elbow can be caused by holding a child’s hand when they fall or if a child is lifted by the hand   
  • It is a common injury in children under 5 (after 5 the ligament and joints are stronger).
  • In most cases your child will cry straight away.
  • Signs of the injury is your child not wanting to use the arm or having the arm hanging by their side. 
  • The longer the injury has endured (the longer it has been out) the longer it will take to recover. 
  • A pulled elbow will not cause permanent damage.
  • Some children are more susceptible to this.
  • This injury can happen more than once. 
  • PREVENTION: don’t pick your children up by their lower arms or wrists. 

This morning our little one is back to normal and seemingly completely fine but we’re just extra careful with her hand, wrist and arm. 


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