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How Many Types of Paralysis Are There?

on  Personal Injury

There are four general types of paralysis: monoplegia, hemiplegia, paraplegia and quadriplegia. Available statistics reveal approximately 5.4 million or 1 in 50 persons are living with paralysis in the United States of America. Having any part of your body become paralyzed is a devastating and horrifying experience. In most cases, paralysis goes far beyond immobility and limited independence. Living with paralysis means living without the ability to control your bladder, bowels, temperature, sexual function, and more. These secondary implications ultimately affect your overall health and quality of life.

Permanent paralysis may occur due to a traumatic injury to the spinal cord caused by a car accident, motorcycle crash, slip and fall, assault, or construction site accident. In most cases, these accidents are due to action or inaction of a negligent party, such as a driver, property owner, product manufacturer, and others.

Four Types of Paralysis

Paralysis is an inability to temporarily or permanently move a part of the body. Paralysis is caused by nervous system damage preventing the brain from communicating with the rest of the body.

There are four main categories of paralysis:


Monoplegia is a type of paralysis that affects a single area of the body, mostly one limb. People living with monoplegia retain control over the rest of the body, not affected by the paralysis. However, they will not experience sensations or move the affected limb.

Monoplegia often occurs due to damage to the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and one or more of your nerves. If a part of a nervous system is damaged, it disrupts the signaling activity to a muscle or muscle group, ultimately leading to paralysis in the affected area. The primary sources of monoplegia are brain injuries, severed or impacted nerves on the affected area, motor neuron damage, strokes, nerve damage due to injuries or illnesses, tumors, nerve impairment.

Monoplegia symptoms

The symptoms of monoplegia tend to occur suddenly after an injury. The main symptom of this condition is the inability to move one of your arms or legs. Other symptoms include:

  • Curling of fingers or toes on the affected limb
  • Loss of muscle tone or muscle floppiness
  • Decreased sensation in the affected part
  • Muscle stiffness or spasm

Monoplegia treatment options

Currently, there is no cure for monoplegia. The available treatment options for the condition aim at addressing the symptoms while improving the quality of life. Some of the common treatment options for monoplegia include physical therapy, occupational therapy, assistive devices, surgery, and medication.


Hemiplegia is paralysis that affects the arm and leg on the same side of the body. However, the degree of paralysis varies from one person to another depending on your overall health, activity level, and other factors. At the moment, hemiplegia is considered a permanent condition with no cure. It is also known as a non-progressive disease because its symptoms don’t get worse over time.

Hemiplegia can be caused by spinal cord injuries and brain injuries resulting from spinal cord injuries sustained from vehicular accidents, falls and slips, and other accidents. It may also be caused by nervous system disorders and cerebral palsy.

Hemiplegia symptoms

People suffering from hemiplegia can display different types of symptoms depending on the severity of the condition. These include:

  • Trouble walking
  • Muscle weakness or stiffness on one side
  • Permanently contracted muscle
  • Poor fine motor skills and poor balance
  • Trouble grabbing objects

Hemiplegia treatment options

The treatment options for hemiplegia depend on the cause and the severity of the symptoms. However, common treatment techniques include physiotherapy, modified constraint-induced movement therapy (mCIMT), assistive devices, electrical stimulation, and more. A person living with hemiplegia who benefits from an effective treatment program may improve the condition’s symptoms over time.


According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, 39.5% of spinal cord injury victims are paraplegic. Paraplegia is a paralysis that affects the areas below the waist, resulting in an inability to walk, move your legs or experience any sensations below the waist. This condition also affects functions, such as sexuality and excretion.

Paraplegia is mainly caused by spinal cord injuries that impede the brain’s ability to send and receive signals below the injury site. These injuries are often due to accidents such as car accidents, falls, or sports accidents.

Other causes of paraplegia include nerve damage at the hips or waist, brain or spinal cord oxygen deprivation, spinal cord lesions and infections, congenital malformations in the brain or spinal cord, and more.

Paraplegia symptoms

The symptoms of paraplegia vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some symptoms may present themselves right away, while others develop over time. The primary symptoms of paraplegia include:

  • Loss of bladder and bowel function
  • Difficulty walking and standing
  • Loss of feeling or sensation in the lower half of the body
  • Chronic pain and depression
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Skin breakdowns

Paraplegia treatment options

Currently, there is no cure for paraplegia. However, with the right therapy, you may recover some control over the affected areas. Available treatment options that improve the symptoms of the condition include physical therapy, occupational therapy, mobility devices, surgery, and prescription medication.


The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reveals that about 59.5% of spinal cord injured individuals are quadriplegic. Quadriplegia or tetraplegia is a paralysis that affects areas below the neck, including all four limbs and the torso. However, the degree of disability and loss of bodily function varies from one person to another and from one moment to another.

In most cases, quadriplegia occurs as a temporary condition caused by brain injuries, temporary compression of the spinal cord nerves, or stroke. Notably, most spinal cord survivors suffer from this condition immediately after being injured. Like paraplegia, the leading cause of quadriplegia is spinal cord injuries due to automobile accidents, acts of violence, falls, gun shooting, and sporting injuries.

Other sources of quadriplegia include allergic reactions to drugs and products, early brain injuries due to pre-birth or during birth injuries, catastrophic nerve damage throughout the body, an inadequate amount of oxygen to the brain and spinal cord, spinal and brain lesions.

Quadriplegia symptoms

The main symptoms of Quadriplegia are paralysis or total loss of sensation and control of all four limbs. Other symptoms of this condition include:

  • Loss of bladder control
  • Inability to walk
  • Lack of motor control
  • Tightness of the muscles
  • Limb muscles that lack firmness

Quadriplegia treatment options

The treatment options for quadriplegia depend on the underlying cause. However, some typical treatment techniques include resistance training, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pain medications, muscle relaxants, and surgery. Your doctor may also recommend using mobility aids such as a wheelchair or scooter to help you manage your symptoms.

FAQs About Spinal Cord Injury-Related Paralysis

What is Locked-in Syndrome?

Locked-in syndrome is a type of neurological disorder that results in complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles except those controlling eye movements. People living with locked-in syndrome are conscious and awake, although they cannot produce movements outside eye movement nor speak. Locked-in syndrome can be caused by brain stem stroke, traumatic brain injury, medication overdose, or circulatory system disease. Locked-in syndrome may also occur due to medical malpractice or injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes, falls, sports injuries, and assaults. Currently, there is no cure for locked-in syndrome.

However, physical therapy, comfort care, and nutritional support can help alleviate the symptoms of the condition. Speech therapists can also help people with locked-in syndrome communicate more clearly with eye movements and blinking.

What is the most common cause of paralysis?

One of the most common causes of paralysis is injuries or trauma damage to the spinal cord. Common causes of spinal cord injury include car accidents, gunshots, workplace injuries, slips, falls, sporting accidents, slipped or herniated disks, and spinal surgery. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reveals about 291,000 Americans have spinal cord injuries. The following are the main causes of spinal cord injuries in descending order:

  • Vehicular accidents-39.3%
  • Falls and slips- 31.8%
  • Violence (primarily gunshot wounds)-13.5%
  • injuries due to Sports/Recreation Activities- 8.0%
  • Medical/Surgical -4.1%
  • Other 3.1%

Researchers also estimate as of 2019, 17,730 new spinal cord injuries occur annually in the United States.

What is the difference between partial and complete paralysis?

Complete paralysis is when you can’t move or control your paralyzed muscles at all. It may also result in an inability to feel anything in the affected parts. On the other hand, partial paralysis is when you still feel and control the paralyzed muscles.

Is there a cure for paralysis caused by a spinal cord injury?

People with paralysis related to a spinal cord injury may experience a temporary or permanent loss of a function. The recovery process for a spinal cord injury depends on the severity of the injury. If you are living with incomplete spinal cord injuries, you have a better chance of recovering some or all functions. However, a complete injury is more severe, and making a full recovery is rare. According to the World Health Organization, the risk of mortality rate is highest during the first year after an injury.

What is the real cost of treating spinal cord injuries?

The consequences of spinal cord injuries are catastrophic. It results in ongoing and chronic injuries that result in significant medical expenses. If you are planning to file a personal injury lawsuit, knowing the real cost of spinal cord injury can help plan the next steps. The exact cost depends on the severity of your injuries and the medical services you will receive. Most treatment expenses are incurred during:

  • Spinal surgery
  • Trauma care
  • Rehabilitation including physical and occupational injury
  • Long-term care such as the cost of in-home aides
  • Medical devices such as wheelchairs
  • Medications like painkillers

Dana and Christopher’s foundation estimate the average medical expense for spinal cord injuries as follows:

  • People with high tetraplegia can expect to pay $1 million for care for the first year
  • People with high paraplegia can expect to pay $1 million for care for the first year.

However, you should keep in mind medical expenses are just the tip of the iceberg. Apart from the medical expenses, there are other expenses, including lost wages and earning potential, home modification costs, the cost of treating mental health issues and purchasing additional equipment.

Get Help from a Personal Injury Attorney Today

Undoubtedly, the cost of paralysis due to a spinal cord injury often extends far beyond the physical ramifications. Fortunately, the legal system allows victims of catastrophic injury, including permanent paralysis, to recover monetary damages from the negligent party responsible for the injury.

If you or someone close to you is living with lifelong paralysis due to an accident caused by someone else, you can recover compensatory damages through a personal injury lawsuit. The paralysis injury lawyers at Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA can help protect your rights and recover fair compensation to cover the cost of treating the paralysis. We are committed to fighting for the maximum compensation equal to the physical and emotional injuries you suffered.