HealthErb’s Palsy: possible causes and treatment options

Erb’s Palsy: possible causes and treatment options

Parents-to-be do everything for the development and protection of their child during pregnancy. They approach the best hospitals and trust medical teams to take care of their kid during and after the delivery. But we can assume that the best hospitals are not always the best. The most skilled healthcare professionals can also lag in their commitment to providing the best care. This is how the cases of medical negligence and birth injuries in the kids occur.

Many of these birth injuries are preventable only if the medical team working on your case adheres to the highest level of patient care standards. One of the most frequently reported birth injuries is Erb’s palsy, characterized by a weak arm. Below you will know more about this injury, what leads to Erb’s palsy and how to effectively treat this condition.

What is Erb’s palsy?

Erb’s palsy is weakness in one of the arms and the resultant loss of movement and sensation. Erb’s palsy can occur both in kids and adults. In infants, it typically happens at birth during a traumatic delivery or when a downward force is exerted on the shoulder or the upper arm. The undue force damages the brachial plexus— a group of nerves at the base of the neck. These nerves cause movement in the whole arm, starting from the shoulder down to the fingertips. 

What to do immediately after getting an Erb’s palsy diagnosis?

Like other professionals, your doctor must recognize that your child is under the effects of Erb’s palsy. Therefore, they must take corrective measures ahead of time to avoid the issue. So, if Erb’s palsy occurs, it is due to the negligence of your physician and other medical professionals. Therefore, after a diagnosis, the first thing you should do is file an Erb’s palsy lawsuit against the medical team whose negligence caused your child to suffer. The lawyer can help you get the compensation to pay for the cost of the treatment and pain and suffering afflicted to you and your child.

Causes of Erb’s palsy

The major cause of Erb’s palsy is the medical negligence of the doctors and the other medical staff. Medically, it happens when at the time of delivery, the baby’s head is pulled out with force while the shoulder is still stuck under the pelvic bone of the mother. Resultantly, the bundle of nerves at the back of the neck gets pulled. Another scenario is when the baby’s head and neck are pulled to the side while the shoulders come out of the birth canal.

The bundle of nerves affected in Erb’s palsy is responsible for movement in the arm, hands, and fingers. When damaged, they can lead to mild weakness or total paralysis, depending on the extent of the injury. Most babies recover from Erb’s palsy as they develop and receive the right treatment.

Erb’s palsy risk factors

The risk factors of Erb’s palsy include the following:

Gestational diabetes: The babies may be larger in size if the blood sugar is not properly maintained. It isn’t easy to deliver a baby who is larger than the average size.

Improper use of birthing tools and complicated delivery: The baby may be pulled out with force if it is a complicated delivery. Moreover, improper birthing tools can also damage the nerves bundle.

A baby born to a petite mother: When a large infant is born to a petite mother, there are chances of injury to the child during delivery.

The second stage of labor spans over more than sixty minutes: When there is too much pushing involved in the second stage of labor, the baby can sustain injuries in the neck and shoulder.

Breech birth: It is a condition when the babies are born feet-first, and the head comes out at the end. There are more chances of a neck and shoulder injury in such situations. The baby may raise the arms during the delivery and sustain an injury more easily.

Treatment options for Erb’s palsy

In many cases, Erb’s palsy causes a mild weakness in the arm. The nerves heal naturally within six to nine months. Most infants with mild damage to the nerve do not need an outside treatment or intervention of any sort. The moderate use of the arm over time facilitates the healing process. Hence, movement and sensation in the arm get restored. But, in cases where there is considerable nerve damage, the below-mentioned treatments can help.

Physical and occupational therapy

Therapy is the most commonly employed treatment in Erb’s palsy. Physical therapy is recommended even for infants with mild symptoms of Erb’s palsy. Their therapy includes various mild stretching, massaging, and muscle movements.

Physical therapy speeds up healing and improves the chances of a swift recovery. In most cases, the child can use the whole arm.

Occupational therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy that improves fine motor muscles. As a result, the baby can grip objects. Occupational therapy significantly helps in recovery.

Parents must hire a therapist to come to their home for regular therapy sessions to make these therapies more effective. The therapist may recommend using some tools and specialized equipment such as braces, flexible tape, splints, etc., to promote the alignment of the joints. These tools also help your child move their arm in the right way.

Another method that your therapist may employ with your child is neuromuscular electrical stimulation. In this method, electoral currents stimulate the muscles in the injured arm. This treatment improves blood circulation in the arm and develops muscles.

Surgical procedures

In extreme cases of Erb’s palsy, surgical procedures are recommended by experts when therapy does not bear any fruits. One of the surgical procedures is nerve graft, in which the damaged nerve is mended by splicing a “donor” nerve graft from a different nerve. Then there is the option of nerve transfer, where a nerve from another muscle is transferred to reinstate the functions in the damaged nerve. But after the surgical procedures, the parents must stick to a rehabilitation regime for their baby that includes various exercises to build its strength.


Erb’s palsy is avoidable if the medical professionals are vigilant about the condition of the expectant mother and fetus. The preventable nature of these birth injuries makes them unbearable, leading to strict legal action by the parents. But simultaneously, knowing more about the disease and taking effective remedial measures is also essential for the health and wellbeing of the baby. In many cases, early interventions and treatments can prevent the baby from sustaining lifelong injuries.

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