Child Birth Injuries: Understanding Erb's Palsy and Klumpke's Palsy

Child Birth Injuries: Understanding Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy

Last updated Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

Child Birth Injuries: Understanding Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy are both nerve injuries that can happen during birth. While they may seem similar, there are some key differences.

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What is the Difference Between the Birth Injuries Erb's Palsy and Klumpke's Palsy?

The main difference between the two is that Erb’s palsy is paralysis of the upper brachial plexus while Klumpke’s palsy is paralysis of the lower.

Simply put, Erb’s palsy tends to affect the shoulder and upper arm, while Klumpke’s palsy tends to affect the lower arm and hand.

Is Erb's Palsy a Birth Injury?

It is possible for Erb’s palsy to occur during birth. However, this is not the only way for Erb’s palsy to occur.

What is Klumpke's Palsy?

Klumpke’s palsy is a type of paralysis. It can manifest in a number of different ways that vary in severity, including a limp lower arm, a tightened hand, poor reflexes, paralysis, pain, stiff joints, and muscle weakness.

klumpkes palsy graphic

It is usually treatable, although it often requires some form of medical intervention. Depending on the severity, this may range from physical therapy to surgery.

What Causes Erb's Palsy in a Newborn?

Erb’s palsy can occur during birth, if the newborn’s head needs to be shifted to one side to help the shoulders leave the birth canal. This may stretch or tear the nerves.

It can also occur if the newborn’s shoulders get stuck or simply due to the way they were positioned in the womb.

What Nerves are Affected in Klumpke's Palsy and Erb’s Palsy?

Klumpke’s palsy happens when the lower brachial plexus nerves are damaged.

As with Klumpke’s palsy, Erb’s palsy occurs due to damage of the brachial plexus nerves. However, Erb’s palsy occurs when the upper brachial plexus nerves are damaged.

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