If You Swing Your Toddler By The Arms, We've Got Grim News For You

It might just lead to a trip to A&E, as one poor mum discovered.
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As parents, there are lots of things we do that have become rituals passed down through generations – and arm swinging is almost certainly one of them.

I used to do it with my parents. Now, my daughter loves nothing more than to grab my hand and her dad’s hand, lift her legs up and swing. And we’ve always thought nothing of it, really.

Until – that is – I saw a TikTok post which scared the living daylights out of me.

Wellbeing coach Amy Pettingill (@amypettingill) shared a video on the site recently explaining how she’d accidentally dislocated her child’s elbow by “swinging them around to make them giggle”.

In text positioned over a video of her swinging her child in the sea, she wrote: “Don’t be like me ... Save yourself the tears, the guilt and the trip to hospital.

“Pulled elbow is one of the most common reasons for toddlers to be presented to the ED [emergency department]. Who knew?! I do now, so learn from my mistakes.”


Just a PSA for all the parents of babies and toddler out there 😒 Yep. I dislocated my little ones elbow. Talk about parent guilt!!! I hope my failing saves you the heartache. Can confirm that spinning around whilst holding on tightly to their torso is still pretty fun 😅 #PulledElbow #MumGuilt #AccidentsHappen

♬ Get You The Moon - Kina

In the caption for the video, which has over 290k views, she added: “Talk about parent guilt!! I hope my failing saves you the heartache. Can confirm that spinning around whilst holding on tightly to their torso is still pretty fun.”

The comments section was full of people with similar stories to share.

One parent wrote: “I did this to my son a month ago and believe me when I say I cried for hours on end with guilt and heartache. It’s so common and easily done.”

“My paediatrician did this to his child,” said another user. “He told me when we went in because ours had fallen off the bed. I’m always so careful pulling her up.”

Some even recalled how it had happened to them as children: “My dad pulled my arm out when I was two from swinging me round like that, it’s always given me the fear.”

Why does it happen, then?

A pulled elbow usually affects children under the age of six, and occurs when one of the forearm bones partially slips out of a ring shaped ligament at the elbow.

Children’s joints aren’t completely developed, so the ring-shaped ligament is looser at this stage.

According to the Westminster and Chelsea Hospital, other actions that can cause a pulled elbow include:

  • You and your child moving in opposite directions quickly whilst holding hands
  • Lifting your child by one hand
  • Pulling an arm through a sleeve whilst dressing them.

If a child does pull their arm, they might cry out and be unable to bend their elbow – you might also hear a crack or popping sound and their arm might hang loosely at the side.

The bad news is you’ll need to get it checked out by either a GP or at A&E. The good news is that it can be treated fairly quickly and shouldn’t cause any lasting damage.

According to NHS advice, a nurse or doctor will move the arm in a certain way to slip the bone back inside the ring of ligament and most children will start using their arm as normal within about 20 minutes.

“It is important to remember not to use your child’s arms to lift them up, or to play games such as swinging them by their arms as this may cause a pulled elbow again,” the advice adds.