What Are Some Different Types of Paralysis?


Quick Answer

The two main types of paralysis are paraplegia and quadriplegia. Paraplegia involves paralysis of the legs and abdomen, typically up to the mid-chest region. Quadriplegia is a total loss of movement in all limbs, as well as the chest and abdominal muscles.

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Full Answer

Both types of paralysis are caused by injuries to the spinal cord. Whether a spinal cord injury results in paraplegia or quadriplegia depends on the part of the spinal cord that is injured. If the injury occurs above the first thoracic vertebra, which is found at the junction of the neck and the back, the result is quadriplegia. If the injury occurs below the first thoracic vertebra, the result is paraplegia. Quadriplegics typically need the assistance of respirators, since their chest muscles are paralyzed and cannot stimulate inhalation. Paraplegics, however, can typically breathe on their own and use their arms and hands normally.

Paralysis occurs because an injury to the spinal cord interrupts the messages the brain sends through the spinal cord to the limbs. When the lesion through the spinal cord is not complete, some paraplegics and quadriplegics are able to regain very limited movement in their limbs. Someone with a complete spinal cord lesion, however, never regains movement.

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