Updated: Nov 13
Hemiplegia is a paralysis that occurs on one side of the body. Hemiparesis is an inability or weakness that develops on a single side of the body, making it challenging to perform tasks of daily living.
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, hemiplegia is more severe than hemiparesis.
When your spinal cord or the brain cannot control muscle movement, it can result in right-sided hemiplegia or left-sided hemiplegia.
Another option, called spastic hemiplegia, is neuromuscular contractions that frequently occur to create paralysis instead of having a shutdown of communication by the central nervous system.
What Is Hemiplegia and How Physiotherapy Helps to Recover
Hemiplegia can affect either side of the body. When one side of the brain encounters an injury, the other side of the body becomes paralyzed with this condition.
For some people, hemiplegia is a genetic condition. A rare ATP1A3 gene mutation causes alternating hemiplegia in children, resulting in a temporary loss of control.
Kids with alternating hemiplegia may experience right-sided or left-sided hemiplegia at any time.
Working with a physiotherapist after receiving a hemiplegia diagnosis is often part of one’s treatment plan. By stretching out the spastic and tight muscles, it is possible to coordinate movement, regain balance, and improve strength.
Any movement therapy may be better than using traditional assistive devices alone.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Hemiplegia?
Hemiplegia symptoms depend on the injury’s extent. When it occurs because of a stroke, there could be memory issues, speech problems, trouble focusing or concentrating, behavioral changes, and seizures.
People can have different hemiplegia symptoms based on how the central nervous system is affected by the condition.
Additional problems with hemiplegia may include the following signs and symptoms.
- Trouble grabbing or holding onto objects.
- Poor balance when standing or walking.
- Permanently contracted muscles.
- Muscle stiffness or weakness.
- Loss of fine motor skills.
Most Common Causes of Hemiplegia
Outside of having a stroke, other brain health concerns are the most common cause of experiencing hemiplegia.
Brain traumas can trigger left-sided or right-sided hemiplegia. When a sudden impact to the head occurs, permanent damage to only one side of the brain can trigger this condition. Sports or military injuries, car accidents, and assaults are often responsible.
A brain infection can also cause hemiplegia. Viral, fungal, and bacterial causes have been known to create the physical symptoms of this condition.
Individuals with brain tumors can develop several physical symptoms that include hemiplegia.
A spinal cord injury can also be responsible for this condition. With this form of hemiplegia, it is less likely that the individual will experience facial symptoms. Unlike the type caused by a brain injury, this type occurs on the same side. It is also known as Brown-Sequard Syndrome.
Individuals with cystic fibrosis may have spastic hemiplegia that dominates one side of the body.
What is the Major Difference Between Hemiplegia and Hemiparesis?
The primary difference in the hemiplegia vs. hemiparesis debate for most people is symptom severity.
Hemiplegia often causes complete paralysis on one side of the body, while hemiparesis only creates muscle weakness or partial paralysis.
What Is the Treatment for Hemiplegia: Is It Curable?
Hemiplegia is a permanent condition. That means there is no cure for the symptoms that occur, although the symptoms don’t get worse as time passes.
Individuals who have physiotherapy and assistive devices included in their treatment plan can see symptom improvement as time passes. Many people with right- or left-sided hemiplegia live independent lives.
Role of Physiotherapy Treatment in Hemiplegia
Physiotherapy provides numerous benefits when offered as a hemiplegia treatment. It promotes improved function and normal movement on the affected side.
This treatment approach may involve several interventions, depending on the severity of the condition.
- Repeated functional task practice with the body's affected side to improve movement and stimulate motor pathways.
- Passive and active range-of-motion exercises.
- Gait retraining, with or without the use of assistive devices.
- Exercises that encourage core stability and improved balance.
- Transfers to help get into or out of bed, toilet use, and moving up or down the stairs.
Hemiplegia may be more severe than hemiparesis, but it does not get worse once it begins. When an effective treatment plan is in place, it is possible to improve the unwanted physical symptoms.
Even individuals with spastic hemiplegia can see symptom reduction benefits with treatment.
Making a few lifestyle changes may help to improve one’s independence or adapt to physiotherapy more readily. Try to stay active as much as possible, wear supportive shoes, and modify your home with handrails, grab bars, or ramps.
Please remember to follow the recommendations offered by your doctor and physiotherapist, including the use of assistive devices.