Brachial palsy or Erb’s Palsy is a loss of movement or weakness of the arm or hand on one side of the body that occurs when the nerves around the shoulder are damaged during birth. This bundle of nerves is called the brachial plexus.
Because most newborns with brachial plexus birth palsy recover, your doctor will re-examine your child frequently to see if the nerves are recovering. A daily exercise program provided by a pediatric physical therapist will minimize weakening of the muscle, stiffness of arm and shoulder, pain and decrease deformity and the possibility of further injury.
Symptoms can be seen immediately or soon after birth, and may include:
- Weakness in one arm
- Loss of feeling in the arm
- Partial or total paralysis of the arm
The rehabilitation evaluation may be done by an Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist. The therapist will review the child’s medical history and current condition. Then the therapist will observe the positioning of entire arm from neck to hand, measure muscle strength and joint motion, assess sensation and assess the child’s ability to move and use the arm or hand.
Common rehab treatment interventions
Parents are educated to position their infant for sleeping, holding, feeding. The therapist will teach the parent to move and stretch the arm. The therapist will work with the child to improve movement and ability to use the arm or hand. A home exercise is provided to the parent for practice and use at home. Sensory concerns are addressed if child is old enough to give feedback.