Being told that you or a loved one will be paralyzed can be a terrifying experience. This is made even more so by the fact that, in the popular imagination, paralysis means a complete loss of movement. In reality, paralysis is a continuum, and the type of paralysis a person experiences immediately after a spinal cord injury (SCI) may change with time, rehabilitation, and diligent medical treatment.
Paralysis is the partial or full loss of movement, usually in response to an injury or illness. In the case of spinal cord injuries, two forms of a paralysis are most common:
Some people suffer less severe forms of paralysis, particularly when their injuries are very low in their spinal cords. Brain and nerve injuries can also cause localized paralysis, such as when a brain tumor pushing on a nerve paralyzes a portion of the face.
Paralysis is almost always the product of nerve or spinal cord damage, not damage to the affected area. Some of the ways the body can become paralyzed include:
Though your doctor may clearly define the type of paralysis you have, the truth is that paralysis is an unpredictable illness. Tetraplegia for one person may look quite different from tetraplegia in another person. Your symptoms may change over time, and there is no way to fully predict how paralysis will affect you. In addition to movement impairments, though, some of the symptoms that commonly accompany paralysis include:
Paralysis cannot typically be cured. Instead, treatment endeavors to directly attack symptoms and reduce the impact of paralysis on your life. Some treatment options include:
Spinal cord injuries are traumatic for patients and their families. They cause disruptive changes to every aspect of your life and there is a lot of new information to navigate and understand. Our experts have collected everything in one place to help you learn more about your injury, locate doctors and treatment centers, find financial support, and get assistance navigating your next move.