What Are Your Erb’s Palsy Treatment Options?
A conditioned caused by any birth injury that damages the brachial plexus nerves, Erb’s palsy can result in temporary or permanent paralysis of the affected arm, shoulder, hand, and/or fingers. Mild cases of Erb’s palsy have been known to resolve on their own without treatment, but in most cases seeking the proper treatment is the best way to ensure the most positive outcome for your baby.
Physical therapy is one of the most common Erb’s palsy treatment options for infants and small children. In general, a qualified physical therapist will usually work with your child for between one month and one year, depending on the severity of the condition and the amount of damage to the brachial plexus nerves.
When you visit a physical therapist for Erb’s palsy treatment, you can generally expect the therapist to help your baby with a few different things, including:
- Exercises to improve strength.
- Exercises to improve range of motion and flexibility.
- Sensory stimulation exercises.
- Gentle exercises to stretch stiff muscles.
In addition to performing these exercises during a physical therapy session, your baby’s therapist will likely give you instructions to continue physical therapy at home. They can also show you the best ways to hold your baby to prevent further damage and to help your child heal.
Many physical therapists will recommend hydrotherapy instead of – or in combination with – normal physical therapy. In this type of Erb’s palsy treatment, the physical therapist will help your baby with strength and mobility exercises in water, where they are nearly weightless. Essentially, because the force of gravity is almost entirely taken away, there’s less stress on joints, muscles, and bones, helping your child painlessly get stronger and improve range of motion.
Hydrotherapy is recommended for recovery from numerous types of injuries, and it can help relieve pain while improving strength and agility, especially in babies and young children.
Surgeries for Erb’s Palsy Treatment
If at all possible, your doctor will likely try to avoid surgery on your baby. However, in cases of severe Erb’s palsy, treatment with surgery is really the only way to restore function, strength, and range of motion. There are a couple of different types of Erb’s palsy surgeries that could help your child if they suffer from extreme nerve damage.
- Nerve Decompression Surgery – Minimally invasive, in this procedure, a small incision is made and a special instrument is inserted to take pressure off of the affected nerves so that they may heal and your child may regain use of their shoulder, arm, and hand.
- Nerve Graft Surgery – In this procedure, sensory nerves from another part of the body are grafted onto the brachial plexus. Once the graft is set, nerves in this area can begin to regenerate, giving your child back the use of the affected arm.
While physical therapy and these types of surgery are highly effective Erb’s palsy treatment options, it should be noted that even after surgery and proper treatment, a child who’s suffered from Erb’s palsy may never regain full function, feeling, strength, and/or range of motion in the affected arm. Continued physical therapy can help with this, though, and most children with Erb’s palsy who undergo these surgeries and/or treatments experience full or nearly full recovery.
Finally, in some cases range of motion and function cannot be restored or can only partially be restored. In these cases, it’s helpful to invest in occupational therapy sessions to help your child learn to live with their disability. An occupational therapist will help them learn to do basic things like eating on their own and tying their own shoes, but they’ll also help them learn to work with and around their disability for other tasks and activities, like writing, drawing, playing sports, etc.
In almost all cases, Erb’s palsy can be prevented before or during childbirth by preventing excessive pulling on the brachial plexus. If your child suffers from Erb’s palsy, these Erb’s palsy treatment options could help them live a full and happy life, but you may not be responsible for paying for all treatments and therapies. Contact us at Birth Injury Center today to find out if you have a medical malpractice case and how to move forward.