Paralysis is a condition involving a loss of muscle function in the body that may be accompanied by sensory loss, also referred to as loss of feeling. The term is derived from the Greek word that means disabling of the nerves. This is because it is usually due to damage to the nervous system that there is loss of motor function or sensory information.


There are several possible reasons that one may experience temporary or permanent paralysis. It is usually as a results of damage to the spinal cord or other parts of the nervous system and associated with:

  • Stroke
  • Trauma
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Botulism
  • Spina bifida
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Additionally, some medications may impact the function of the nerves and in rare cases have the potential to cause paralysis.

Pseudo paralysis

Pseudo paralysis is a term that refers to voluntary restriction of movement. It is not due to muscular paralysis and malfunction of the nerves responsible for movement but, rather, a choice to refrain from moving due to pain or incoordination.


Paralysis can be categorized as either localized when a specific part of the body such as the face or hand is affected, or generalized when a large section of the body is affected, such as the entire lower body.

There are also more specific terms to describe particular areas of the body that are affected.

  • Monoplegia is the paralysis of one limb.
  • Hemiplegia is the paralysis of the arm and leg on one side of the body.
  • Paraplegia is the paralysis of both legs and some other areas of the lower body, such as the pelvis.
  • Tetraplegia or quadriplegia is the paralysis of both arms and legs.