On November 30, 2020, the Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health published a case study showing chiropractic helping a baby who has suffered birth trauma resulting in a brachial plexus injury. John Hopkins Medical describes the brachial plexus on their website as, “The brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the shoulder that carries movement and sensory signals from the spinal cord to the arms and hands.”
During the birth process, if the newborn is positioned in a certain way during delivery, the newborn’s shoulder can get caught in the mother’s pelvis. This type of problem is known as shoulder dystocia, and can lead to brachial plexus injury or even a broken clavicle bone. In shoulder dystocia, excessive force is commonly used to attempt to deliver the baby vaginally, and, in many instances, the procedure is abandoned, and a cesarean is performed. Brachial plexus injury during birth is relatively rare, occurring in less that half a percent of live births in the United States.
In this case, the mother of a 5-month-old boy brought her son in to the chiropractor for help. Her baby son was not using his left arm. The woman stated that her pregnancy was without incident, but the delivery was very difficult. She reported that her baby was in a transverse (sideways) position causing his shoulder to get stuck. Because of this, a large episiotomy was performed and the baby was delivered vaginally with great difficulty.
Immediately after birth, his mother noted that her baby was protective of his left shoulder and kept his left arm straight and less active than his right. The infant also could not lie on his belly for more than five minutes without becoming fussy.
A chiropractic examination noted a stiffness and rigidity of the muscles and shoulder joint on the baby’s left side. Palpation of the spine noted areas of concern for possible subluxation. From this examination, the baby began receiving age and size appropriate specific adjustments to address the subluxations.
By the fourth chiropractic visit, the boy’s mother reported that her son was moving his arm more frequently and he spent more time on his belly. By the sixth visit, the baby boy enjoyed being on his belly for extended periods of time. On the 15th chiropractic visit, a re-evaluation was performed. During that visit, the boy’s mother stated, “He is doing great under care! He’s using both his arms equally and he might even have a tendency towards his left hand now!” She also reported that her son was able to pick up bigger balls with his left hand than with his right.
In the study discussion and conclusion, the authors wrote, “The patient presented to the private family chiropractic office at five months of age without having improved upper extremity movement or strength noticeably since birth.” They sum up the results by saying, “This case study describes the positive health outcomes and prevention of surgery following chiropractic care in a baby suffering from obstetrical brachial plexus palsy secondary to birth trauma.”