Understanding Paralysis

Paralysis is a condition where the muscles have lost their capacity to function in a part of the body making it immobile. However, the muscle itself is not responsible for the paralysis. Our muscles are controlled by the nervous system, including the nerves, spinal cord, and brain, which processes messages to and from the brain and other parts of the body. Basically, paralysis happens when there is some sort of nerve damage either due to problems with the nerves or when a portion of the spinal cord is injured.

Paralysis can be localized or generalized, temporary or permanent, partial or complete, and spastic or flaccid. In order to truly understand what paralysis is, it is helpful to understand what these terms mean in relation to paralysis.

Localized paralysis
Localized paralysis is when paralysis is limited to a very specific part of your body. Some examples of localized paralysis include:

  • - Paralysis of the vocal cord that either partial or fully effects their ability to speak

  • - Paralysis of the hand

  • - Facial paralysis that is limited to one side of the face

Generalized paralysis
Generalized paralysis is when paralysis is found in a much more generalized area of the body. Some examples of generalized paralysis include:

  • - When one side of the body is paralyzed, also known as hemiplegia.

  • - When only one limb, such as an arm or a leg, is paralyzed called monoplegia.

  • - When the lower half of the body is paralyzed including both legs called paraplegia

  • - When both hands and legs become paralyzed, also known as quadriplegia.

Temporary and permanent paralysis

As you may have already guessed, temporary paralysis means a type of paralysis that only lasts for a short amount of time. For example, temporary facial paralysis can occur in Bell's palsy. Strokes have also caused temporary paralysis in a few cases.

You also can probably guess that permanent paralysis is simply a life-long condition of paralysis. Sadly, this is much more common than temporary paralysis and can make it difficult for you to support yourself or others.

Partial and complete paralysis

When a person still has some function of their muscles and sensation, it is known as partial paralysis. For example, there is movement in one leg, but not the other. However, complete paralysis is when a person has absolutely no function or sensation.

Spastic and flaccid paralysis

Spastic paralysis type of paralysis occurs when the muscles are unusually stiff or have involuntary muscle contractions, also known as spasms. Flaccid paralysis however, is where the muscles become floppy, weak, and may shrivel gradually. For example, muscular dystrophy causes the muscle tissue of the arms and legs is deteriorating and causing progressive weakness.

What Are The Causes Of Paralysis?

Infections, poisoning, accidents, tumors, and blocked blood vessels all have the ability to cause paralysis. However, here are the four most common causes of paralysis.

Stroke: Paralysis can happen in a stroke when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted or stopped. For the brain to function properly, it needs blood to carry oxygen and nutrients with to it. However, when the blood supply is stopped when there is a blood clot or when a weakened blood vessel bursts.

Head injury: When the part of the brain that controls specific muscles is damaged because of a head injury, paralysis can sometimes occur.

Spinal cord injury: The spinal cord is a central part of the nervous system. Its function is to transmit signals to and from the brain and other parts of the body. When the spinal cord is damaged because of a neck or spinal injury, the brain may be unable to transmit signals to the muscles and thus results in paralysis. Spinal cord injuries can result from a number of causes including falls, accidents, and even certain diseases.

Multiple sclerosis: This paralytic disease occurs when that is an interruption of communication between the brain and the muscles due to inflammation that scars the nerves.

If you suspect that someone may have a head or spinal injury, call 911 immediately! While you wait for medical professionals to arrive, keep the injured person as still as possible to avoid worsening their condition.