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Paralysis : A Painful Case


Paralysis is characterized by entire loss of muscle work in a part of your body


Motor pathway is the chain of nerve cells that proceeds from the cerebrum through the spinal cord out to the muscle. Ordinary muscle work requires intact pathway. However, damage at any point results in a decreased capacity of the brain to control muscles’ function. This leads to weakness of muscles called paresis. Complete disruption of communication causes complete absence of control is called paralysis.

Any condition causing paresis may advance to paralysis. On the other side, it is also possible that power of a paralyzed limb is restored. Nerve recovery or regrowth is one manner by which power can be restored. Loss of motion quite often causes a change in muscle tone. Paralyzed muscle might be limp, heavy, and without considerable tone, or it might be spastic, tight, and hypertonic.

Paralysis affects an entire body region though it may affect a single muscle. The location of the damaged nerve can be accessed by the distribution of the weakness.


Classification is done according to the region:

  • Monoplegia (involvement of a single limb)
  • Diplegia (symmetrical loss of power in the same region-body, for instance, the two arms or the two sides of the face)
  • Hemiplegia (involvement of one side of the body)
  • Paraplegia (involvement of the two legs and the trunk)
  • Quadriplegia (involvement of all four limbs)


The damaged nerve may be localized in the central nervous system (brain or spinal cord) or peripheral nervous system (peripheral nerves).

Causes of paralysis located in the brain are:

  • Stroke
  • Tumor
  • Metabolic disorder
  • Trauma (caused by a fall or a blow)
  • Multiple sclerosis (an ailment that damages the defensive sheath covering nerve cells)
  • Cerebral palsy (caused by a deformity or damage to the brain that occurs in childhood)

The spinal cord is damaged usually by trauma, for example, a fall or car accident. Other conditions that may damage nerves in the spine are:

  • Tumor
  • Disk herniation (also called a disk slip)
  • Neurodegenerative disease (a disease that destructs the nerve cells)
  • Spondylosis (stiffness in the joints of the spine)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine
  • Multiple sclerosis

Peripheral nerves can be damaged by following causes:

  • Trauma
  • Compression (for example, carpal turner syndrome)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (an autoimmune disorder caused by a viral disease or immunization where body’s immune system attacks the nerves)
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP) (a condition that causes pain and swelling in the myelin sheath)
  • Radiation
  • inherited demyelinating disease
  • Toxins


The site of nerve damage can be localized by the distribution of paralysis.

Hemiplegia is quite often caused by brain damage on the contralateral side usually from a stroke.

Paraplegia happens after damage to the lower spinal cord region, and quadriplegia happens after damage to the upper spinal cord at the level of the shoulders or above.

Diplegia is often caused cerebral palsy.

Monoplegia might be caused by damage to either central or peripheral nervous system.

Loss of function of just arms and legs may demonstrate demyelinating illness.

Fluctuating symptoms in various parts of the body may indicate multiple sclerosis.

Sudden loss of motion is often caused by trauma or stroke.

Progressive loss of motion may show degenerative disease, acquired a demyelinating disease or inflammatory condition, for example, Guillain-Barre disorder or CIDP, metabolic disorder etc.


Other symptoms accompanying paralysis include:



Visual acuity changes


Speech difficulties


Spinal cord damage frequently causes loss of bladder, bowel and sexual organs control.

Breathing difficulties occur if the spinal cord is damaged at a higher level.


Thorough medical history may uncover the reason for paralysis.

A neurologic examination tests access power, tone, reflexes, and sensations in the affected region.

Imaging techniques including CT scan, MRI and myelography may localize the site of the damage.

Electromyography and nerve conduction tests are performed to test the capacity of the muscles and peripheral nerves.


The main treatment for paralysis is to treat its root cause. The long-term paralysis can be dealt with rehabilitation which includes:

  • Physiotherapy. This treatment includes exercises that make up for paralysis by utilizing those muscles that still have the normal capacity and maintain the strength that remains in the influenced muscles. Physiotherapy keeps up a range of movement in the paralyzed limbs to keep muscles from shortening (contracture) and distortion. Moreover, physiotherapy retrains the affected limbs during recovery phase if nerve regrowth is intact. A physical specialist likewise recommends adaptive devices, for example, props, sticks, or wheelchairs.
  • Occupational therapy. This includes exercises that help out in daily activities, for example, eating and bathing. Occupational therapy creates special devices and strategies that allow self-care and recommends approaches to alter the home and work environment so a patient with impedance may carry on with a normal life.
  • Other Specialties. A paralyzed patient may need to consult a respiratory therapist, speech therapist, social worker, nutritionist, psychiatrist etc.


The probability of recovery from paralysis relies upon what is causing it and how much harm has been done to the sensory system.


Prevention of underlying factors can decrease the incidence of paralysis. The danger of stroke can be diminished by controlling hypertension and cholesterol levels. Safety belts, airbags, and head protectors decrease the damage caused by accidents and falls. The ratio of cerebral palsy can be decreased by preventing premature births which can be achieved by good antenatal care.

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