Erb’s Palsy Symptoms At Birth
Erb’s palsy is the result of injury or stretching of a cluster of nerves found near the shoulder and upper rib cage. Also known as brachial plexus injury, Erb’s palsy affects the nerves that control movement in the hand and arm. For every 1,000 babies born in the United States, 1 or 2 will develop this condition. Neuritis symptoms of Erb’s palsy in infants include being able to move the fingers of one hand but not the shoulder, partial or complete paralysis of the limb, and loss of feeling. These symptoms occur when the upper part of the nerve is affected. If the lower part of the nerve is also affected, the child is said to have total or “global” brachial plexus birth palsy. It is difficult to ascertain if the infant is suffering from neuropathy pain.
Physical therapy is the primary treatment for Erb’s palsy, although on rare occasion surgery may be employed. The treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. An injury that does not tear the nerve, but stretches it beyond normal limits is canned neurapraxia. This condition usually resolves on its own in about 3 months. If the nerve is damaged by the stretching, scar tissue may form. This is known as neuroma. Neuroma may heal on its own, but total recovery is rare. If the nerve ruptures or tears, it will not heal on its own. Sometimes a nerve graft taken from another part of the child can effectively repair a rupture. The worst nerve injury is called avulsion where the nerve is disconnected from the spinal cord. In this case, partial function may be restored by using a nerve from another muscle.
Erb’s palsy should not be confused with Bell’s palsy which is frequently caused by a virus and affects primarily adults.