hemiplegia It is a localized weakness on one side of the body. It may involve arms, hands, legs, face or a combination.

Stroke is the most common cause of hemiplegia; approximately 80% of stroke survivors experience it.A stroke occurs when brain cells are damaged due to blocked blood flow or rupture of blood vessels supplying the brain. Hemiplegia patients can still move the affected side, but with limited strength.

This article will discuss other causes of hemiplegia, its common symptoms, and the treatment and recovery process.


Hemiplegia is a common result of injury or disease of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Besides stroke, hemiplegia can be caused by many other diseases:

  • Traumatic brain injury, such as a fall, sports injury, or car accident
  • Traumatic injury affecting the nerves or spinal cord – the part of the nervous system that connects the brain to the rest of the body
  • Tumors or abnormal tissue growths in the brain or spinal cord
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerves
  • Medical conditions present from birth, such as cerebral palsy, which can affect the ability to walk and move
  • Infection of the brain, spine, or meninges (the protective tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord)
  • Post-seizure paralysis, which is temporary weakness after a seizure
  • Psychological and psychiatric disorders that may cause temporary debilitating


Medical conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, or nerves often cause hemiplegia. This includes stroke, trauma and tumors.


The most obvious symptom of hemiplegia is weakness on one side of the body. Symptoms correspond to the damaged side of the brain or spine.

Injury to the left side of the brain usually causes weakness on the right side of the body. Injury to the right side of the brain usually causes weakness on the left side of the body.

Depending on the type of spinal injury and the degree of damage within the spine, hemiparesis may affect the same side of the body as the spinal injury, or it may affect the opposite side.

Symptoms of hemiplegia also include:

  • inability to maintain balance
  • difficulty walking
  • inability to grasp objects
  • Movement accuracy drops
  • muscle fatigue
  • lack of coordination
  • Leaning to one side when standing, walking, or sitting
  • loss of bowel or bladder control

Hemiplegia, which most often affects the arms, legs, or both, makes it difficult to maintain a normal level of independent daily activities and is one of the leading causes of disability.


Injury to one side of the brain usually causes weakness on the other side of the body. Hemiplegia can make it difficult to balance, coordinate, walk, and grasp things.


If you complain of any hemiplegia symptoms, your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination. It can be difficult to determine whether your symptoms are caused by weakness, pain, or something else.

A physical exam includes tests of your reflexes, feeling, and strength. Your healthcare provider will rate your strength on a scale of 1-5.

This rating can also help when the same healthcare provider or other healthcare providers assess your strength later, as it can be used as a comparison.

Muscle Strength Rating Scale

Muscle strength rating scales are as follows:

  • 0/5: No movement
  • 1/5: Mild muscle twitching
  • 2/5: Moves side to side, but cannot lift arms or legs against gravity
  • 3/5: Can move upwards against gravity, but not against any force, such as a slight push by the examiner
  • 4/5: Can resist movement, such as being pushed by an examiner, but does not have normal expected strength
  • 5/5: Can fight strength with expected strength

One side of the body may become completely weak; this condition is called hemiplegia.

Diagnosis of hemiplegia or the cause of hemiplegia can also be confirmed with brain or spine imaging and may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses multiple X-rays and a computer to get a three-dimensional view
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which uses a magnetic field and a computer to acquire two- or three-dimensional images


Diagnosis usually involves testing your reflexes, sensations, and strength, as well as imaging of your brain and/or spine.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Treatment of hemiplegia begins with targeted therapy for the cause, whether stroke, brain tumor, infection, or other disease.

Long-term treatment goals for hemiplegia are to enhance motor skills and coordination, and improve your ability to manage daily activities. Recovery and partial recovery from hemiplegia is possible through rehabilitation and treatment.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Physical and occupational therapy are often important during short- and long-term recovery. It can help stroke survivors return to activity years after a stroke.

Treatment and rehabilitation may include:

  • Modified Constraint Induction Therapy (mCIT), a practice that uses a weakened part of the body and restricts use of the unaffected side of the body
  • Electrical stimulation, which involves placing small electrical pads on weakened muscles to create an electrical charge that forces the muscles to make contact
  • cortical stimulation, which sends electrical currents to the brain during exercise
  • mental imagery, which involves specialized visualization exercises where you imagine yourself moving the weaker side of your body
  • Assistive devices, such as braces, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, and the use of these devices for activities

home modification

Modifications to the home may be required to accommodate and help increase mobility. Some modifications may include:

  • armrest
  • ramp
  • Raised toilet seat
  • bench in bathtub
  • Anti-slip strips in the bathtub
  • electric toothbrush
  • Electric shaver

Fortunately, hemiplegia is not a progressive or worsening disease unless there is evidence of aggressive brain tumor growth.


Hemiplegia is a weakness on one side of the body that makes movement and daily activities difficult. It usually occurs as a result of injury or a condition that affects the nervous system, the most common cause being a stroke.

Treatment and rehabilitation are an important part of the recovery process and can help improve strength and mobility over time.