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Dislocated Wrist in Toddlers and Young Children--What To Do

Updated on February 19, 2016
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Dislocation of the wrist is common in toddlers, though rare in adults. The reason it is common is because the wrists of young children are easily dislocated. I’ve known it to happen while roughhousing; a sibling pulls on a toddler’s hand, the child cries and then seems unable to use her hand.

Parents will sometimes unintentionally dislocate a child’s wrist. Have you ever taken hold of a child’s hand to pull her to her feet? I’ve known of such dislocations to occur when a child is lying on the floor of a retail establishment, throwing a tantrum, and the frustrated mom takes the child’s hand and pulls her to her feet.

There are other ways this could happen, too. If you were holding a child by the hand while navigating stairs, the child could slip, putting the whole weight of her body on her wrist.

It’s better to hold a small child by the forearm, rather than by the hand, when you are guiding them through traffic, through crowds, or down the front steps, or any of those other times that a child someone to keep hold of them.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT A CHILD’S DISLOCATED WRIST

I dislocated my daughter’s wrist by pulling her up off the floor. My babysitter diagnosed the problem immediately. She told me that her daughter got a dislocated wrist when one of her brothers pulled on her hand.

My sitter took her little girl to the emergency room, where they were kept waiting for several hours. While they were waiting, the little girl’s father gently manipulated the wrist back into place before they were seen in the ER. But they were still charged for the ER visit.

I was afraid to try to reduce the dislocation myself, so I took my daughter to a chiropractor. The chiropractor had my daughter’s wrist back in place so quickly that I didn’t see what he did, and she show no sign at all of discomfort.

I believe our conversation went:

Me: “Can you fix it?”

Him: “It’s fixed.”

WHAT ABOUT REDUCING THE DISLOCATION YOURSELF?

My babysitter’s husband was able to reduce his daughter’s dislocated wrist more or less by accident. He had never heard or read of the correct method for this, but merely experimented gently. I’m thinking it can’t be that hard.

The Cottage Physician, by Faulkner and Carmichael, originally published in the 1890s, gives directions for reducing a variety of dislocations, as does Being Your Own Wilderness Doctor, by Bradford Angier.

If you want to have a very gentle try at reducing a dislocated wrist before running off to the ER or to a chiropractor, here are the directions from The Cottage Physician: “The hand should be grasped firmly and drawn straight….All that is required is full extension, by which the hand may be drawn straight.”

Obviously, this is to be done very gently (but firmly).

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