4 Types of Paralysis

4 Types of Paralysis

In basic terms, paralysis is the inability to feel sensations and/or control movements. More specifically, paralysis is a physical state that can come in many forms. It can be permanent if damage to the spinal cord is severe and widespread, limited to specific parts of the body (usually below the injury site), or temporary and reversible with physical therapy and other treatments. In some instances, sensation and movement may return with no clear medical explanation, and sometimes fusion surgery or spinal fusion alternatives may facilitate recovery by treating the cause of the paralysis. Paralysis can be further defined in the following ways.

1. Monoplegia

Often affecting one limb, monoplegia is paralysis limited to a single area of the body. Movement and sensation are typically unaffected elsewhere and it may be temporary if a patient responds well to physical therapy or if the damaged nerves aren’t completely severed. While commonly associated with cerebral palsy, monoplegia may also be caused by:

  • Strokes and tumors
  • Brain injuries
  • Damaged, impinged, or severed nerves
  • Motor neuron damage

2. Hemiplegia

Similar to monoplegia, hemiplegia frequently affects limbs on one side of the body. It’s a form of paralysis that is usually progressive in nature, with symptoms sometimes starting off as mild (e.g. pins-and-needles sensations) and becoming more severe until complete paralysis sets in. Patients with hemiplegia may experience:

  • Varying degrees of functioning
  • Improvement with early intervention
  • General weakness on one side of the body (hemiparesis) as the first noticeable symptom

3. Paraplegia

Paraplegia is paralysis of the legs and lower body. It can affect basic functioning below the waist, including sexual function and bowel and bladder capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, paraplegics may have some degree of sensation and experience varying symptoms. Spontaneous recovery sometimes occurs, although it’s not fully understood why this happens. Patients can also recover if the brain is retrained with therapy. Causes of paraplegia may include:

  • Spinal cord injuries, infections, and lesions
  • Brain infections or tumors
  • Stroke or a temporary loss of oxygen to the brain or spinal cord
  • Abnormalities in the brain or spinal cord
  • Nerve damage in the waist or hips

4. Quadriplegia

With quadriplegia (also called tetraplegia), paralysis occurs below the neck and typically affects all limbs and the torso. As with paraplegia, spontaneous recovery sometimes occurs. Quadriplegia may also be temporary, with patients sometimes regaining movement gradually with therapy, when the brain retrains itself, or if paralysis was caused by swelling that eventually subsides. Possible sources of quadriplegia include:

  • Spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries
  • Stroke or diseases and infections affecting the brain
  • Loss of oxygen to the spinal cord or brain
  • Spinal cord and brain infections, tumors, or lesions
  • Congenital defects or pre-birth brain injuries
  • Conditions such as cerebral palsy that may develop before, during, or shortly after birth
  • Drug/alcohol overdoses
  • Allergic reactions to medications

Paralysis in any form occurs when the brain isn’t able to send, receive, or interpret nerve signals or impulses. Stroke is the most common reason for paralysis, followed by spinal cord injuries, specific conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and post-polio syndrome, and traumatic brain injuries. The ability to recover will depend on what caused the paralysis, whether or not any movement and sensation has been retained, what areas are affected, and a patient’s overall health and response to treatment.

Spinal fusion surgery comes with potential risks such as paralysis, which is why it’s crucial to find a reputable surgeon who will let you know if surgery is the best option. Whether you need a Coflex implant, vertebroplasty procedure, or another form of spinal surgery, the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute can find the solution for alleviating your pain. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.