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What is Erb’s palsy?

Erb's palsy is weakness of a newborn baby's arm due to damage to the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves that originate from the neck and supply the arm. Damage to these nerves during birth leads to loss of movement and sensation in the arm, hand, and fingers. This will have an impact on everyday tasks such as lifting the arm and reaching for objects.

Physiotherapy treatment will help your child reach their maximum functional recovery following damage to their arm during childbirth. Physiotherapy will teach you how to do exercises safely and effectively with your baby to protect the soft joints and to keep your baby's arm in the best condition.

Passive stretches and mobilisations of the upper limbs to relieve pain and stiffnessAbove: Passive stretches and mobilisations of the upper limbs to relieve pain and stiffness

Diagnosis of Erb’s palsy

A paediatrician will usually confirm a diagnosis of Erb’s palsy, based on weakness of the arm and physical examination. An X-ray may also be conducted to see if there is damage to the bones and joints of the neck and shoulder. To see if nerve signals are present in the affected arm an electromyogram (EMG) or a nerve conduction study (NCS) may also be done.

What causes Erb’s palsy?

Erb’s palsy is usually caused by stretching of the babys neck during a difficult delivery damaging the nerves. This may occur with a large baby, a breech presentation, or a prolonged labour. The extent of the damage to the nerves varies from baby to baby and may range from bruising to tearing.

Fine motor skill rehabilitation for the upper limb assisted by a specialist paediatric physiotherapistAbove: Fine motor skill rehabilitation for the upper limb assisted by a specialist paediatric physiotherapist

What are the symptoms/effects of Erb’s palsy?

The symptoms of Erb’s palsy may include:

Physiotherapy for Erb’s palsy

Physiotherapy treatment is important following injury as it can have a significant impact on your childs recovery. Physiotherapy treatment at for Erbs palsy will help to maintain the range of motion in the your childs shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand and keep the muscles surrounding the joint strong. This will prevent the joint from becoming permanently stiff and will improve independence with daily activities such as dressing, eating and playing with friends and family. Physiotherapy treatment should be commenced as soon as possible for the best possible recovery. At our specialised paediatric physiotherapists will help your child regain the functional use of their affected arm as soon as possible.

Physiotherapy treatment may involve:
  • Active and passive range of movement exercises which will be engaging for your child and keep their joints limber
  • Exercises to strengthen muscles in the affected arm
  • Advice on how to position the arm in sitting and during sleep to promote normal alignment
  • Weight bearing exercises
  • Activities to improve sensation
  • Practicing functional tasks such as reaching, grasping and manipulating objects to increase independence
  • Hydrotherapy treatment to build up muscle strength and stretch tight and painful joints
The physiotherapy treatment your child will receive will be tailored to their current symptoms and needs. At our paediatric physiotherapist will ensure that you child reaches their maximum potential as soon as possible so that they can continue to enjoy daily activities.

For more information about how physiotherapy treatment will help your child with Erb’s palsy or to book an appointment please call 0330 088 7800, or book online today!

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