Erb’s palsy is muscle weakness in the arm or shoulder that can occur as a result of an injury sustained during birth or later in life. It’s most common in infants who injured their shoulders during delivery.
What are the signs and symptoms of Erb’s palsy?
Erb’s palsy affects the shoulder, arm, and elbow. In general, your hand muscles aren’t affected, but your hands may experience tingling or numbness.
Signs and symptoms of Erb’s palsy include:
- Paralysis or limpness of the shoulder, arm and elbow. You can’t lift your arm away from your body or bend your elbow.
- Numbness or tingling in your arm or hand. These are also known as “burners and stingers.”
- A hand position known as ‘the waiter’s tip’ position. The palm of your hand points toward the back, and the fingers curl.
Types of Erb’s Palsy
There are four main types of brachial plexus palsy. Doctors determine the type of brachial plexus palsy based on the degree of damage to the brachial plexus nerve.
Learn more about the different Erb’s palsy types below.
Neuropraxia is the most common type of Erb’s palsy and occurs when a nerve is stretched but does not tear at all. Neuropraxia can cause a burning or stinging sensation and usually clear up on its own by 3 months of age.
Neuromas are more severe than neuropaxias. When neuromas occur, scar tissue forms as it heals itself from the stretching and places pressure on the other healthy network of nerves. Generally, children with neuroma Erb’s palsy partially heal.
Ruptures occur when the brachial plexus nerve is torn. Ruptures require more intensive medical care since they will not heal. This injury usually requires surgery to graft the damaged nerve fibers back together.
Avulsions are the most severe type of nerve injury and they occur when a nerve is completely torn from the spinal cord. This can cause permanent paralysis or muscle weakness in the affected arm. It can also lead to Horner’s syndrome and cause difficulty breathing, drooping eyelids, and small pupils.