Erb’s Palsy is a condition caused during a child’s birth when the nerves around the shoulder are damaged. Also known as brachial plexus palsy, children with the condition typically have a loss of movement or weakness in the arm, shoulder, hand, or fingers.
In most cases, Erb’s Palsy injuries are only mild to moderate. In fact, as the nerve heals, some symptoms can disappear without treatment. However, more severe symptoms may require a formal rehabilitation program, or even surgery. Naturally, it's better to use exercise as much as possible as a natural way to build up the arm's strength.
In seeking treatment, you should work with a medical professional who can assess your child's condition and history. A therapist can also work with the child, and teach you about the ideal placement of the infant during sleep, when eating or being held.
Erb's Palsy exercises can include:
- Stretching: Parents perform gentle stretching exercises with the baby’s affected arm. This can keep the joints and muscles mobile and healthy.
- Range of motion: The arm’s full movement from being bent (such as when we touch our fingers to our shoulder) to being fully straight (as when we point our finger with our arm extended and rigid) is called range of motion. Therapists (and trained parents) can move the child’s arm through this range to help keep the unused shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers mobile, and the joints loose.
- Sensory: By touching the child gently, a parent can encourage him or her to use the injured arm. Parents can make a game out of the process: rubbing different textures on the affected areas — scratchy, soft, and smooth — to help increase sensory awareness.
Ideally, Erb’s Palsy exercises will be at the center of your child’s rehabilitation program. To create an exercise plan suitable to your child’s unique needs, consult a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or a doctor.
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