What Are Erb’s Palsy Symptoms and How Can You Spot Them?
If an infant is pulled or stretched in an unnatural or excessive way during childbirth, damage can be done to the brachial plexus nerves, which control the nerves of the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. If the upper nerves of the brachial plexus are injured, the condition that then develops is referred to as Erb’s palsy.
Erb’s palsy most often occurs as a birth injury during long and/or difficult labors, and it comes with a host of symptoms that can become permanent if the condition goes untreated. So how can you determine if your child has Erb’s palsy? Look for these symptoms:
One Hand Has a Weaker Grip Than the Other
Nerve damage to the brachial plexus can result in decreased grip strength of the affected hand. Place your finger in your baby’s grip on each hand and feel for a difference in how tightly they can squeeze. You can also place light objects that your baby should be able to hold up in their hand and observe how well they’re able to grip these objects with each hand.
Lack of Movement in One Shoulder or Arm
Infants may not yet have full control over their fine motor skills, but they do tend to move and reach with both arms and shoulders. If you notice your baby only moving one arm or being unable to move the shoulder of one arm, they may have Erb’s palsy.
A Limp Arm Bent Toward the Body
Often, if a baby’s arm is fully paralyzed, it will rest against their body limply with a slight bend at the elbow. If you notice that your baby cannot move one arm and that it sits in this position at all times, you should seek medical attention to find out if your baby has Erb’s palsy.
High-Pitched Crying or Screaming
In addition to numbness and partial or total paralysis in the affected shoulder or arm, Erb’s palsy can also cause pain in the shoulder, arm, or neck. Your baby may not be able to point to where it hurts, but they will likely be fussy without any reason, and they’ll usually have a high-pitched cry or scream when it hurts. If the crying gets worse when you touch your baby’s neck, arm, or shoulder, then there’s a good chance that this is a symptom of Erb’s palsy.
Lack of Reaction to Stimulus
If your baby is healthy and has full feeling and motion in their arm and shoulder, they should react when you touch these areas. If you touch your baby’s arm or shoulder and you get no reaction from them, it could be due to numbness from nerve damage in the brachial plexus.
Likewise, an infant with Erb’s palsy’s reflexes in the affected arm will not be able to react the way that they normally would. If your baby’s arm doesn’t move when you touch it, there’s a chance that there is at least some partial paralysis or damage to the reflexes in that arm.
Untreated Erb’s Palsy Can Be Permanent
If treated quickly and properly, Erb’s palsy can be a temporary condition. If it goes untreated, however, it can result in permanent disability. For example, your child may have permanent partial or full paralysis in the affected arm, or they may permanently have a weakened grip or numbness in that arm. As a result, muscle atrophy can occur, as the muscles in the affected arm cannot move and function properly and will eventually waste away.
While the severity of your child’s Erb’s palsy may vary a great deal, it’s likely that they will experience and exhibit one or more of these symptoms after suffering a birth injury that damaged their brachial plexus nerves.
At Birth Injury Center, we’re here to help you understand your baby’s birth injury, who’s responsible, and what you can do next to help your baby. If your baby’s birth injury could have been prevented by a medical professional, there’s a good chance that you have a medical malpractice case and that you are owed compensation for treatment and other damages. Read more about Erb’s palsy at our Erb’s Palsy Treatment page or contact us today to schedule your free consultation.