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What is Erb's palsy?

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Erb's palsy is a condition caused by injury at birth to the brachial plexus, a group of nerves near the neck and shoulder. Infants with Erb's palsy may exhibit limited upper or lower arm movement. In many cases, the infant regains movement as the damaged brachial plexus nerves slowly heal, according to BrainandSpinalCord.org.

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There are several birth occurrences that can cause Erb's palsy. In cases where the baby is delivered feet first, a breech delivery, the arms may be pulled up and injured due to excessive pressure in the birth canal. During normal deliveries, the baby can be injured if excessive stress is placed on the head, neck or shoulders as the baby is pulled from the birth canal. Infants with an above average birth weight, higher than 8 pounds 13 ounces, are at an increased risk for brachial plexus injury, explains BrainandSpinalCord.org.

Treatment options for infants with Erb's palsy vary due to the specific severity of each case. For mild cases, physicians may recommend physical therapy, which may include exercises to stimulate range of motion or gentle massages of the affected area. For severe cases, physicians may recommend surgery within three to six months of the baby's birth. Surgery to treat Erb's palsy focuses on repairing tears and stimulating or grafting nerves in order to restore movement, according to Birth Injury Guide.

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