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Erb's palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy consisting of paralysis of the upper arm muscles and the shoulder girdle due to an injury to upper part of the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of spinal nerves that begins in the back of the neck, extends through the armpit, and gives rise to nerves to the upper limb. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves. It conducts signals from the spine to the arm and hand. These signals cause the arm and hand muscles to move.
In Erb's palsy, the arm is rotated internally and hangs limply at the side. A brachial plexus injury (Erb's Palsy) is not a brain injury, but a nerve injury. The nerves that are damaged control muscles in the shoulder, arm, or hand. Erb's palsy can cause paralysis in any or all of these muscles.
Erb's palsy can affect children in many different ways. Some children have no muscle control and no feeling in the arm or hand. Erb's palsy allows some children to move their arms, but have little control over the wrist and hand. Other children are affected with use of their hands but cannot use the shoulder or elbow muscles. The degree of Erb's palsy in a child depends on which nerves are injured and how severely they have been damaged.
The cause of Erb's palsy is usually an event occurring at the time of birth. Many babies with Erb's palsy were larger than average at birth. However, newborns of all sizes, including premature babies, can suffer injuries causing Erb's palsy. Approximately 1 to 2 babies in 1,000 suffer from Erb's palsy injuries at birth. About 1 in 10 of these need treatment, while the other half will spontaneously heal. The Erb's palsy treatment ranges from exercise and therapy to surgery and therapy.
There are four types of nerve injuries that are responsible for Erb's palsy. An avulsion is when the nerve is torn from the spine. A rupture occurs when the nerve is torn, but not where it attaches to the spine. A neuroma is when the nerve has tried to heal itself, but scar tissue has grown around the injury creating an enlarged nerve. The scar tissue puts pressure on the injured nerve and as a result, the nerve cannot conduct signals to the muscles. The fourth type of nerve injury regarding Erb's palsy is praxis, where the nerve has been damaged but not torn. Praxis injuries will heal without treatment, and you should see improvement within 3 months.
One or more of the nerves in the brachial plexus may be injured. The nerves may have the same or different kinds of injuries. Because the injuries cause the same symptoms, it is difficult to know what kind of injury has occurred. An physician experienced with Erb's palsy should be consulted to determine the type and extent of nerve damage causing Erb's palsy.