What is Erb's Palsy?
Erb's Palsy is a nerve injury that effects the movement of a child's shoulder, arm, and hand. The injury usually happens when too much force is applied to the baby's head, while trying to pull out a baby stuck in the birth canal. The baby may be too large to fit easily through the birth canal. When the baby's shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal, it is called "shoulder dystocia."
Pulling on the baby's head stretches and injures the nerves in the stuck shoulder. The injured nerves are between the shoulder and the neck. They provide movement to the arm, hand, and fingers. This collection of nerve fibers is called the "brachial plexus," or Erb's Point" (hence the name Erb's Palsy, or Brachial Plexus Palsy).
Most of the time these nerves are only mildly injured, and the baby may regain movement in a few months. Unfortunately, about 20% of the time, the injury is so severe, or the nerves are actually avulsed (torn from their points of attachment to the spine), or they may be ruptured, so that paralysis of the arm and shoulder is permanent.