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Paralysis is the complete or partial function loss of a body part or organ system due to disturbed neural stimulus transmission in the peripheral nervous system and/or the affected region of the central nervous system (CNS).

The cure of paralysis as it stands today is only conditionally possible, but the limitations can typically be alleviated with therapies. Generally, paralyses are distinguished with regards to their extent. Depending on the severity of the paralysis there are three different forms for the most part:

  • Plegia: entire paralysis of the skeletal muscles
  • Paralysis: complete paralysis, which can include muscles as well as blood vessels. 
  • Parese: partial paralysis

The manifestation of a motor paralyis -- that is, one that affects muscle strength -- is determined by assessing the muscle groups against resistance. The result may be expressed through the following strength ratings postulated by the British Medical Research Council (BMRC) in 1978:

  • 0: no muscle contraction
  • 1: muscle tension is visible
  • 2: movement without the influence of gravity
  • 3: movement against gravity
  • 4: movement against resistance
  • 4+: movement against resistance, but the affected limb is weaker than the other side
  • 5: normal strength


The causes of paralysis are very diverse. They can be divided into three groups:

1. Central paralysis: The cause of the paralysis is located in the brain. Possible triggers might be haemorrhages, circulation issues in the brain (for example through a stroke or the constriction of blood vessels) or inflammation in the brain area. 

2. Peripheral paralysis: The cause of the paralysis is damage of the muscle fibres or of the contact to the musce cells. Among these are impingement of the nerves (for example by an accident or a herniated disc), constriction of the nerve through inflammation of the bones or ligaments, inflammation of the spine or the nerves themselves, tumours, contamination, and autoimmune diseases. 

3. Muscular paralysis: The cause of the paralysis is located in the muscles themselves. A reason for the paralysis may be the deterioration of the muscles, a congenital muscle weakness, or inflammation of the muscles. 

Physical paralysis may be distinguished from psychological paralysis. Although there is no damage to the nerves or the muscles, those affected lose their mobility completely or partially. The have coordination problems and are unable to control their movements. This can have an effect on the ability to independently walk and stand. 

Treatment of paralysis

The treatment of paralysis is complex insofar that it differs depending on the cause and severity of the impairment. To enable the best possible care, affected individuals should go immediately to a medical professional when they notice a mobility limitation. Often these are associated with a severe illness (for example a stroke). The medical professional will do a basic examination to find the cause of the function loss. Depending on the diagnosis the paralysis may be alleviated with medications (for example in the case of muscular inflammation) or may necessitate a more elaborate treatment (for example in the case of tumours being the trigger). 

If the paralysis is neurologically based, it cannot be fully cured by today's medicine. In this case the goal is to stabilize and improve as much as possible the health status of the patient through physiotherapy, massages, baths, and similar measures. It is decided on an individual basis which combination of surgical, pharmaceutical, or occupational treatments are possible and make sense. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that those affected contact their medical professional to discuss in detail all possible steps of the treatment.

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