Erb’s Palsy is a medical condition causing paralysis of the arm due to nerve damage. It usually occurs during a difficult childbirth and, if due to medical negligence, could result in an erb’s palsy claim.
If you’re new to erb’s palsy, it might seem overwhelming knowing what exercises are safe for your child, or what might cause more damage.
Fortunately, there are a lot of exercises that can be adapted to make them suitable for children with erb’s palsy, so your child doesn’t need to miss out.
Exercise is also great for strengthening arm and elbow muscles too which can have a positive effect on symptoms.
Read to find out about 10 great exercises for erb’s palsy!
Exercises For Babies and Toddlers with Erb’s Palsy
Crawling is something that comes naturally to babies and toddlers and is actually a great exercise for building arm strength. For children with erb’s palsy, crawling should be encouraged as much as possible.
Crawling helps to stretch muscles, strengthen underused muscles that otherwise wouldn’t be used much in a child with erb’s palsy and enhances baby and children’s vestibular and balance system.
2. Shoulder Rotation and Flexion
Shoulder exercises are great for alleviating tension and stiffness in your child’s muscles.
By performing some physiotherapy exercises including shoulder rotation and flexion. You will help to stretch out your baby/young child’s muscles.
This will help to build arm function for your child, making them more independent when they are older.
3. Elbow Flexion
Range of motion exercises on the elbow will help to rebuild your child’s arm strength. These should be performed slowly and held at the end of range for at least 10 seconds, at least 3 times a day.
These are exercises you will help your child to perform so are better done when your child is younger. Great times to perform them are when you are nursing, bathing, changing and when your baby is being held.
For younger children, other day-to-day activities that can help develop arm strength for erb’s palsy is:
- Hair brushing
- Drinking from a cup
- Brushing teeth
- Drawing and writing
- Eating with utensils
- Getting dressed
So, make sure to incorporate these activities into your child’s day too to help them become more independent.
Exercises for Older Children with Erb’s Palsy
Swimming is a great all-rounder for physical fitness for everyone, but it has some excellent benefits for children with erb’s palsy too.
Swimming creates resistance which helps to build muscle tone, which can develop arm function in erb’s palsy.
In addition to this, water buoyancy helps to reduce body weight, easing pressure on different parts of the body — especially bones and joints which can be a relief.
Swimming can also help to develop motor skills in children with erb’s palsy. So, make sure to get down to your local pool.
Rowing is predominantly a leg exercise, meaning children with less motion in their arms can still take part. It will help strengthen arm muscles over time with the motion of pulling.
Grace Clough, paralympic rowing athlete is a great example of someone with erb’s palsy who has excelled with rowing, achieving a gold medal at the 2016 summer Paralympics.
Running uses mostly lower body strength meaning that it’s still suitable for children with erb’s palsy so is a great way to keep fit, and it means they can still play with their friends.
As well as outdoor running, the elliptical machine or treadmill are also great options.
Balance might be a slight issue when running, but as long as your child sets a pace that they can control, there shouldn’t be any hiccups.
If your child is new to running on a treadmill, we’d recommend starting off slow and steady whilst your child gets used to the feeling, and ensuring that the safety clip is attached at all times.
Although this doesn’t directly help to rebuild arm function, a general level of fitness will be incredibly helpful when completing other arm exercises.
Throwing helps to increase fine motor skills in children with erb’s palsy, so it’s a good exercise to undertake to develop arm function.
8. Wheelbarrow Walking
Wheelbarrow walking might take your back to your school sports day, but it’s a really great exercise for building arm function in erb’s palsy and other disabilities.
- Hand strengthening
- Wrist strengthening
- Arm stretching
- Shoulder stability strengthening
- Upper back strengthening
- Strengthening of the extensor muscles in the back and hips
- Proprioceptive input the hands and arms which helps the body learn where the joints are in space
- Bilateral coordination which will help to improve balance as both sides of the both and the top and bottom of the body are working together
Climbing helps to strengthen the body as a whole and is also argued to improve the relationship between the brain and the body which helps children to perform activities in sync.
The Alpkit Foundation has previously supported children with erb’s palsy with accessing climbing and caving opportunities.
Climbing can also help improve posture, balance, arm strength, and coordination which all supports arm function development.
10. Racquet Sports
This could include tennis, squash, badminton, cricket and more! The movement will help to strengthen the muscle in the arm, but make sure to take your time with it.
The great thing about racquet sports is that the majority of the time, people only use their strong arm, meaning someone with erb’s palsy can still get involved.
Ready to support your child with erb’s palsy develop their arm function?
This article discusses some exercises that are great for developing arm function, as well as supporting your child’s general level of fitness.
These exercises are also great for ensuring your child feels included as lots of these activities are things your child can do with friends, siblings and in school so they don’t have to miss out!
If you have any exercises that have benefitted your child with Erb’s Palsy, let us know in the comments below.