If your child has a brachial plexus injury, it can be difficult to understand how it happened and what you can do to help them. Thankfully, our caring pediatric occupational therapists know the ins and outs of this condition and how best to help your baby heal from this injury so they can move and play more easily. Keep reading to learn what a brachial plexus injury is, how it happens, and how occupational therapy can treat this condition no matter how young your baby is.

What Is a Brachial Plexus Injury?

The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that comes from the spinal cord and extends through the neck down into the armpit. These nerves are vital for sensory function and movement in the arms, hands, and fingers. An injury to the brachial plexus typically means that these nerves have been pulled or stretched enough to damage them. This condition can affect anyone, but it’s often seen in newborns and impacts their ability to use the affected arm.

What Causes a Brachial Plexus Injury?

A brachial plexus injury can happen during childbirth if the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal during delivery. The brachial plexus can be injured as the baby maneuvers through the birth canal, especially if the medical team has to intervene to assist the baby’s safe delivery. Pulling the baby’s head or neck to one side or stretching their shoulder to help them get free of the birth canal can inadvertently stretch the brachial plexus nerves and lead to injury.

Signs and Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Injury

The most common signs of a brachial plexus injury in newborns include:

  • Limited or no movement in the affected arm
  • Weakness or lack of muscle control
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Poor grip on the affected side
  • Pain in the arm, wrist, or hand
  • Arm held against the body with the elbow extended
  • A lack of feeling or sensations in the affected arm
  • A lack of startle reflex on the affected side of the body

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If you’re concerned about your child’s development, you can take advantage of our free online developmental screening. This tool is a convenient way for parents to know with certainty if your child is achieving their developmental milestones or if they need extra support to achieve their brightest future.

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