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Paralysis is loss of the ability to move one or more muscles. It may be associated with loss of feeling and other bodily functions.

It is not usually caused by problems with the muscles themselves, but by problems with the nerves or spinal cord the brain uses to control muscles. A person with paralysis will usually have some form of nerve damage.
The type and extent of paralysis will determine the impact it has on a person’s quality of life and day-to-day activities.
For example, a person who has lower limb paralysis (paraplegia) will usually be able to lead a relatively independent and active life, using a wheelchair to carry out their daily activities.

But a person with paralysis that affects both their arms and their legs (tetraplegia/quadriplegia) will need a great deal of support, and it is unlikely they will be able to live without a dedicated carer.

Classifying paralysis

Paralysis can be:

  • »localised – where a specific section of the body is paralysed, such as the face or hand
  • »generalised – where a larger area of the body is affected

There are also a number of medical terms used to describe different types of paralysis. For example:

  • »monoplegia – where one limb is paralysed
  • »hemiplegia – where the arm and leg on one side of the body are paralysed
  • »paraplegia – where both legs and sometimes the pelvis and some of the lower body are paralysed
  • »tetraplegia – where both the arms and legs are paralysed (also known as quadriplegia)


Paralysis – Treatment

Treating paralysis

There is currently no cure for permanent paralysis. The aim of treatment is to help a person adapt to life with paralysis by making them as independent as possible.

Another important goal of treatment is to address health problems and associated complications that arise from paralysis, such as pressure ulcers.

Various treatment options and aids available for people with paralysis are described below.

Mobility aids

A range of mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, are available for people with paralysis.