The most common treatment for relief from symptoms of Erb’s Palsy is rehabilitation involving exercises that improve range of motion and strength of the affected area. Individual exercises are prescribed by trained physical therapists and occupational therapists depending on the seriousness of the condition.
An assessment of the injury conducted by a trained therapist determines the extent of functionality of the upper extremity. Testing evaluates the range of motion of the arm, muscle strength, muscle movements, sensation, and functional use of the affected arm.
Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy
Physiotherapists (or physical therapists) work to improve the motor movement of the affected arm. The occupational therapist assists with the arm movements while doing activities. Gentle stretching exercises are incorporated into the rehabilitation regimen to improve movement, keep the joints mobile, and reduce contraction. As rehabilitation progresses, the therapist will gradually incorporate weight-bearing exercises to improve the integrity of all joints in the arm.
Therapists may use heat packs to loosen tight joints and stiff muscles and improve circulation in the area. Splints may be used in treatment to position the affected arm properly. The splint will also provide maximum usage of the arm for activities of daily living, maintain range of movement, and prevent secondary complications. Sensory stimulation is used to improve sensation and awareness of the arm.
In treating children with Erb’s Palsy, the therapists educate the parents on the correct methods of carrying the child and avoid further problems due to dislocation of the shoulder or elbow. Parents must be completely involved in the child’s treatment as therapists show them how to continue the exercises at home on a regular basis.
Exercises for children include gentle range of movement exercises in a prone-lying position. The exercises increase joint flexibility and muscle tone as well as improve sensory awareness. Using the arm in appropriate movements increases strength, coordination, and range of movement. Hydrotherapy is recommended to improve shoulder stabilization and make exercising easier. It also works on restoring movement and strength of the arm.
An occupational therapist will evaluate the function of daily activities and advice on special equipment to maximize independence and improve quality of life.
With rehabilitation exercises, confidence and independence improves greatly in children as well as adults. As they begin to manage their activities independently, their arm is no longer restricted in movement, which helps further loosen up the joints and reduces muscle stiffness.
With rehabilitation, the movements that take the most time to return to normalcy are full shoulder flexion and abduction, supination, external rotation, and full elbow extension using triceps.