Understanding Erb’s Palsy

How serious is Erb’s Palsy?

Like any birth injury, the seriousness of Erb’s palsy depends on the severity of the underlying injury. The effects may be temporary, or the child may experience them for the rest of his or her life. Contacting a Florida Erb’s Palsy attorney can be extremely beneficial to both you and your family.

What is Erb’s palsy?

Erb’s palsy is a type of nerve injury that affects a newborn’s shoulder and arms. The hallmarks of injury are muscle weakness and paralysis in the affected arm. The injury is most readily identified by the arm hanging limp at the side and/or a limited range of motion that can continue into adulthood.

The injury most commonly occurs in difficult labors or deliveries where a baby’s shoulders become trapped in the birth canal. In these situations, a doctor or other delivery staff may have to take actions to free the newborn. If too much pressure is exerted, it could damage the nerve bundle near the shoulder.

The Seriousness of Erb’s Palsy Will Determine the Long-term Effects

The injury that leads to Erb’s palsy can range from mild to severe, depending on whether the nerves were simply damaged or completely severed.

Some of the short- and long-term effects of Erb’s palsy may include:

  • affected arm turned inward;
  • limited movement in affected shoulder, arm or hand;
  • inability to lift arm above the head;
  • limited ability to grasp objects with affected hand (affects ability to manipulate tools or perform certain tasks);
  • paralysis (temporary or permanent);
  • difference in size between two arms (affected arm typically is smaller); and
  • limited range of motion.

In most cases, symptoms will dissipate after several months. Other patients will experience lifelong effects from the birth injury.

Treatment May Lessen the Seriousness of Erb’s Palsy

Early treatment and intervention of Erb’s Palsy may help lessen the impact. Consistent physical therapy and time may be all that is necessary to resolve the effects of the mildest cases. In other circumstances, a patient will require surgery to repair nerve damage.

Treatment may include physical therapy to develop and strengthen impacted muscles. Occupational therapy can be used to teach young patients how to engage in daily activities like brushing their teeth, getting dressed, doing their homework and playtime.

The Emotional Impact of Erb’s Palsy

Counseling and other emotional therapy may be necessary to address the psychological impact of the injury. This is especially true for a child whose Erb’s Palsy prevents him or her from participating in “normal” activities like sports and certain organized games. Parents may wish to work with a family counselor or support group to help the child address feelings of “being different” or “not belonging.” These steps may help protect a child’s quality of life and help him or her thrive despite the injury.

Do you have concerns about the seriousness of your child’s Erb’s palsy? We have provided a section that answers many of the questions you are now asking yourself.  For over 30 years we have been helping parents deal with these types of birth injuries and more, which is why we created a section of frequently asked questions about Erb’s Palsy.