Not all cases of Erb’s palsy require treatment. Where the damage is only minimal, the nerves can often repair themselves over several months. However, it’s still important for a diagnosis to be made so that the progress can be monitored.
Where the damage to the nerves is more extensive, a quick diagnosis can improve the likelihood of treatment working. Failure to deliver treatment when it’s needed can result in permanent paralysis in the affected limb that can have a significant impact on the child’s life.
Physical therapy can be used following surgery to ensure that movement is restored to its fullest possible. It can also sometimes be used alone to support natural recovery. Your physical therapist will be able to advise on how long a full recovery should take and what to expect, as well as providing exercises that can be done at home.
If your child is affected by Erb’s palsy they may find daily routines a challenge. Occupational therapy works with each child on an individual basis to help them deal with tasks such as tying their shoelaces, eating, and simply playing. In some cases, an occupational therapist may also advise on specialist equipment that could be useful.
A form of physical therapy, hydrotherapy can be used to take the stress off the musculoskeletal frame, allowing infants and children affected to build up muscle strength while reducing pain.
Where the nerve has been significantly damaged, a nerve graft may be recommended. This is where a sensory nerve is taken from another area of the body and grafted on to the damaged nerve. This can help stimulate the nerve fibres to grow and connect with muscles. The surgery has a high chance of allowing patients to regain the full use of their arm.
Surgery can be used to remove one end of a working tendon and stitch it to a paralysed muscle, therefore allowing a patient to move the muscle that has been affected.
Most babies fully recover from Erb’s palsy within six months and surgery is usually only considered after this point.