A man in a wheelchair beside the words types of paralysis

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Approximately 5.4 million people in the U.S. are paralyed; around 27 percent are paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury caused by trauma, disease, or developmental issues such as spina bifida.

In some cases, paralysis is temporary. In others, it is permanent and/or progressive, meaning that it will get worse with time. Paralysis can also get better with time, even if it is considered permanent. The following is detailed information regarding the different types of paralysis.

Four Types of Paralysis Based on Location

At its most basic, paralysis is broken down into two categories: localized and generalized. Localized paralysis affects only one body part, whereas generalized paralysis affects multiple body parts.

When it comes to injury-induced paralysis, localized paralysis is generally caused by localized nerve damage. Generalized paralysis, on the other hand, is caused by more extensive injuries, like damage to the spinal cord. Generalized paralysis is broken down into four categories based on the areas affected:

  • Monoplegia – affects one arm or one leg
  • Hemiplegia – affects one arm and leg on the same side of the body
  • Paraplegia – affects both legs
  • Quadriplegia – affects both arms and both legs

All four types of generalized paralysis can be caused by injury, but cases of hemiplegia after an injury are rare. Hemiplegia is most often caused by cerebral palsy and other developmental diseases. Monoplegia can occur if nerves are impinged or severed during an injury. Both paraplegia and quadriplegia are most often caused by traumatic spinal cord injuries.

Paralysis can range in severity and may or may not be permanent. If you’re experiencing pain and/or paralysis after an injury, you should consult a specialist and hire a personal injury attorney.

Other Factors Doctors Consider When Defining Paralysis

Location is not the only factor that doctors consider when defining the type of paralysis that a patient has. Other factors and definitions include:


The severity of a paralysis is described by one of two terms: partial paralysis or complete paralysis. With partial paralysis, a patient has some feeling and control over the muscles in the affected area. With complete paralysis, the patient has no feeling and no control.


As mentioned, paralysis may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause and severity of the injury.

Muscle Involvement

Doctors also define paralysis by how it affects your muscles, calling it either flaccid or spastic. In flaccid paralysis, your muscles become weak and atrophy. In spastic paralysis, your muscles can twitch or spasm and may become tight and hard.

Are there Treatments for Paralysis?

There are treatment options available for people who suffer paralysis after an injury, including surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medication, and more. The type of treatment prescribed depends primarily on the type, severity, and prognosis of the injury in question.

If the paralysis is considered temporary or reversible to some extent, treatment may involve surgery to stabilize the area followed by physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve motor function. If paralysis is incurable, it may be treated symptomatically. For example, muscle relaxers are often used to control the spasms associated with spastic paralysis.

New, exciting treatments are also on the horizon. Stem cells have shown remarkable ability to heal and regenerate damaged tissue, which may make them ideal for treating cases of paralysis.

Prognosis for People who Are Paralyzed Due to Injury

With spinal cord injuries, there is always some hope of recovery. Of course, the prognosis is highly dependent on the type and severity of the paralysis. Incomplete spinal cord injuries offer the most hope for recovery. However, even people with complete paralysis have been able to regain some function with early intervention.

Most improvement after a spinal cord injury occurs within the first two years. However, the first year is often the hardest. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are intense during this time in an effort to restore as much function as possible to the affected area.

If you’ve been injured in Abilene, TX, call Hernandez Law Group today to learn more about your rights and responsibilities. Hernandez is a board-certified personal injury attorney; only 2 percent of Texan attorneys share this designation.