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(pôl`zē), 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 (paraplegiaparaplegia
, paralysis of the lower part of the body, commonly affecting both legs and often internal organs below the waist. When both legs and arms are affected, the condition is called quadriplegia.
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 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 strokestroke,
destruction of brain tissue as a result of intracerebral hemorrhage or infarction caused by thrombosis (clotting) or embolus (obstruction in a blood vessel caused by clotted blood or other foreign matter circulating in the bloodstream); formerly called apoplexy.
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, 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 diseaseParkinson's disease
or Parkinsonism,
degenerative brain disorder first described by the English surgeon James Parkinson in 1817. When there is no known cause, the disease usually appears after age 40 and is referred to as Parkinson's disease; a number of genes have
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. Cerebral palsycerebral palsy
, disability caused by brain damage before or during birth or in the first years, resulting in a loss of voluntary muscular control and coordination. Although the exact cause is unknown, apparent predisposing factors include disease (e.g.
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 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 sclerosismultiple sclerosis
(MS), chronic, slowly progressive autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the protective myelin sheaths that surround the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord (a process called demyelination), resulting in damaged areas that are unable
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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.


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.


Complete or partial loss of motor or sensory function.


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


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.
References in classic literature ?
In constant danger from falling trunks and branches and paralyzed by the vivid flashing of lightning and the bellowing of thunder they crouched in pitiful misery until the storm passed.
When he was a guest at my home in Alabama, and was so badly paralyzed that he had to be wheeled about in an invalid's chair, I recall that one of the General's former students had occasion to push his chair up a long, steep hill that taxed his strength to the utmost.
For another hundred yards she dragged her weary way, her brain half paralyzed from dumb terror and suffering, and then there came to her the memory of a little babe that suckled at her breast, and of a slim boy who romped, laughing, about her, and they were both Tibo--her Tibo!
The second stroke of the blade pierced far into the beast's spine, and with a last convulsive sweep of the fore-paws, in a vain attempt to reach his tormentor, Numa sprawled upon the ground, paralyzed and dying.
The result is that the caterpillar is paralyzed, but not immediately killed, the advantage of this being that the larva cannot be injured by any movement of the caterpillar, upon which the egg is deposited, and is provided with fresh meat when the time comes.
Peckham have shown that the sting of the wasp is NOT UNERRING, as Fabre alleges, that the number of stings is NOT CONSTANT, that sometimes the caterpillar is NOT PARALYZED, and sometimes it is KILLED OUTRIGHT, and that THE DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT APPARENTLY MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE TO THE LARVA, which is not injured by slight movements of the caterpillar, nor by consuming food decomposed rather than fresh caterpillar.
Tulliver, her feeble faculties almost paralyzed by this sudden accumulation of troubles, went backward and forward to the gate to see if the Laceham coach were coming, though it was not yet time.
10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits are often out of reach for paralyzed military veterans.
ISLAMABAD -- For the first time ever, a paralyzed man can move his fingers and hand with his own thoughts thanks to a new device.
After the founder of Argo Medical Technologies was paralyzed in a car accident in 1997, the company developed ReWalk, a robotic exoskeleton with which a paralyzed person can walk again.
Paralyzed rats can now decide for themselves when it's time to take a leak.
A heroic Georgia man was paralyzed after he dove into a creek to save a drowning four-year-old girl.