Erb’s Palsy Physiotherapy
Erb’s palsy physiotherapy, or physical therapy, is a nonsurgical treatment option that uses a combination of exercise, massage, stretching and other external movements to restore function to the affected limb.
There are three main goals of Erb’s palsy physiotherapy:
- Avoiding muscle deterioration from lack of use
- Avoiding muscle contractures that can lead to deformities
- Improving motor skills
Physiotherapy can help increase movement and comfort, especially if started when the child is still an infant.
Physiotherapy can help improve flexibility, muscle strength, muscle tone, mobility and strength. It can also help improve bone structure, circulation and lung capacity. Like all movement, physiotherapy can help boost mood and prevent depression.
Physiotherapy exercises include:
- Arm and Leg Cycling: This can provide muscle strengthening and cardiovascular benefits and can be done on specially fitted machines.
- Water Play (Aquatherapy): Movement in water improves flexibility, encourages movement and helps keep weight and strain off the bones and joints.
- Stretching: This is a basic exercise for all Erb’s palsy patients. Babies can benefit from simple, gentle stretches of their limbs.
Any Erb’s palsy physiotherapy should be done under the guidance of a physiotherapist and doctor.
Erb’s Palsy Exercises
Exercise should be used as much as possible and in natural ways to build up the arm’s strength.
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 by 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.
Stretches To Treat Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy stretches can help build up the arm’s strength. Most kids with Erb’s palsy will eventually make a full recovery. Erb’s palsy stretches can often help the process along faster.
Erb’s palsy stretches are fairly simple to do. Parents or caregivers should perform gentle stretching exercises on the baby’s affected arm every day. This will keep the joints and muscles mobile and healthy and also increase the baby’s awareness of the injured arm.
Range of motion stretches are important for keeping the unused shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers mobile and the joints loose. Then, when the areas do recover, they will be in good shape.
Erb’s palsy stretches should be at the center of your child’s rehabilitation plan. For more specific stretches based on your child’s unique needs, consult their physical therapist or ask their doctor.
Erb’s Palsy Occupational Therapy
While many cases of Erb’s palsy will heal naturally, occupational therapy can help many babies heal faster or help improve range of motion if the injury is severe.
Occupational therapy is a nonsurgical approach to treatment that works with kids to help them be more independent in their natural environments. It may deal with sensory, cognitive or motor skill issues that affect everything from self-care to play.
Occupational therapy can also help parents increase their knowledge of the condition and further develop their caregiving skills.
Occupational therapy usually begins with an assessment of the child’s challenges and abilities. The therapist will also assess the child’s physical surroundings.
Based on the findings, the therapist will then make recommendations for changing the child’s surroundings to help him or her play and learn more effectively. For example, an occupational therapist can suggest ways to store toys where the child can reach them more comfortably.
An occupational therapist will also work closely with all caregivers to increase the benefits of occupational therapy.