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paralysis or palsy (pôlˈzē), complete loss or impairment of the ability to use voluntary muscles, usually as the result of a disorder of the nervous system. The nervous tissue that is injured may be in the brain, the spinal cord, or in the muscles themselves. Accordingly there may be general paralysis, involvement of only one side (hemiplegia), paralysis on both sides at one level (paraplegia or quadriplegia), or localized paralysis in a small group of nerves or muscles.

The cause of paralysis may be any injury that tears or compresses the nerves; it may be hemorrhage, tumor, infection, or substances toxic to nerve tissue. One of the most frequent causes of paralysis is stroke, in which hemorrhage, thrombosis, or obstruction of a cerebral vessel interferes with nerve function. Another disorder in which a resting tremor is one of the main symptoms, accompanied by slowness and poverty of movement, muscular rigidity, and postural instability is Parkinson's disease. Cerebral palsy is due to an injury to the brain motor tissue before or during birth. However, this disorder is nonprogressive. Partial or complete paralysis often accompanies multiple sclerosis.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



absence of voluntary movement that is due to destruction or impairment of the motor centers of the spinal cord or brain or of tracts of the central or peripheral nervous system. A distinction is made between paralysis and paresis, the latter being a condition in which motor functions are weakened but present. Both conditions may be caused by disturbances of the blood circulation, inflammation, traumata, or tumors of the nervous system. An unusual kind of paralysis occurs in hysteria. Paralyses must be distinguished from motor disorders associated with inflammation of muscles and lesions of bones and joints, which restrict the range of movement mechanically. Paralysis may affect one muscle, one extremity (monoplegia), the arm and leg on one side (hemiplegia), both arms or both legs (paraplegia), or other combinations of muscles.

Peripheral paralysis is a flaccid paralysis that involves the motor cells of the spinal cord and its anterior roots, peripheral nerves, plexuses, or nuclei of the cranial nerves. Central paralysis is a spastic paralysis that involves the brain’s central motor neurons or their outgrowths in the spinal cord.

Peripheral paralysis is characterized by the complete absence of movement, decrease in muscle tone, loss of reflexes, and muscular atrophy. Sensory disorders occur when a peripheral nerve or plexus containing both motor and sensory fibers is affected.

Central paralysis is characterized not by the complete loss of motor functions but by their dissociation—the loss of some functions and intensification of others. While voluntary movement is absent, muscle tone and tendon and periosteal reflexes increase and pathological Babinski’s, Rossolimo’s, and other reflexes appear. Associated movements (synkinesis) are observed. These are involuntary movements that occur in paralyzed extremities during voluntary movements of healthy extremities. Sensory disturbances are also observed.

Extrapyrimidal paralysis arises when the subcortical structures of the brain are affected. Associated, reflex, and voluntary movements are absent (akinesia). Muscle tone is plastic, and the extremity can move only passively.

Electromyography and other special methods of examination are important for differential diagnosis.

The prognosis and treatment are determined by the disease that caused the paralysis. Among the special methods used to restore the functions of the extremity are massage and remedial gymnastics.


Krol’, M. B., and E. A. Fedorova. Osnovnye nevropatologicheskie sindromy. Moscow, 1966.
Kukuev, L. A. Struktura dvigatel’nogo analizatora. Leningrad, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about paralysis?

Being unable to move may mean the dreamer feels helpless to control the situation at hand. Alternatively, perhaps the dreamer needs to “freeze” and do nothing about some issue for awhile.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


Complete or partial loss of motor or sensory function.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a. impairment or loss of voluntary muscle function or of sensation (sensory paralysis) in a part or area of the body, usually caused by a lesion or disorder of the muscles or the nerves supplying them
b. a disease characterized by such impairment or loss; palsy
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Dreaming that you or someone else is paralyzed could be very frightening. Depending on the details of your dream and your current situation in life, there are several different, but equally reasonable interpretations. The fear that paralyzes you in the dream may be symbolic of the fear that you are experiencing in daily life. You may feel somewhat unable to change a current situation, which may manifest itself in your dream as a form of paralysis. In addition, this dream may be cautioning you to stay still and do nothing for now in regard to a real-life situation that is on your mind and may be problematic for you. In the dream you may be “frozen with fear” and it is up to you decipher what that fear is and what it represents.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.