Paralysis is when you are not able to move some or all your body. It can be temporary or permanent depending on what causes it.

Symptoms of paralysis

You may have paralysis if:

  • you cannot move some or all of your face or body
  • your face or body is weak or floppy
  • your face or body is numb, painful or tingles all the time
  • your face or body is stiff with muscle spasms and twitches

This can start suddenly or gradually, or come and go.

Call 999 if:

You or someone else has paralysis or weakness:

  • that happened suddenly
  • after a injury to the head, neck or back
  • that causes problems with speech, breathing or swallowing
  • that affects 1 side of the face (your face may droop on 1 side) or 1 arm (you may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there)
  • and cannot feel part or all of your face and body, and you feel tingling

These problems could be a sign of something serious that needs to be treated in hospital straight away.

Causes of paralysis

Paralysis can be a symptom of many different conditions that affect the muscles and nerves.

Common causes of paralysis include:

  • transient ischaemic attack (TIA or "mini-stroke") or stroke (paralysis in 1 half of the face with arm weakness)
  • a head injury
  • a spinal cord (back) injury
  • Bell's palsy (paralysis in 1 half of the face)
  • multiple sclerosis

Sometimes paralysis can be temporary, like having sleep paralysis, or long-term, like muscular dystrophy.

It can also be caused by a brain tumour or certain types of cancer like head or neck cancer.

See a GP if:

You or someone else has paralysis or weakness that:

  • started gradually
  • is getting slowly worse
  • comes and goes

Treatment for paralysis

Treatment for paralysis will depend on what's causing it.

Temporary paralysis may go away on its own without medical treatment.

Things that can help people with paralysis include:

  • physiotherapy to maintain strength and muscle mass
  • occupational therapy to adapt to everyday tasks like getting dressed
  • medicines to relieve problems such as pain, stiffness and muscle spasms

For more information about the help and support available, see:

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 11/10/2023 12:55:05