Body movement is brought about by deliberate or involuntary contraction and subsequent relaxation of muscle fibers. If the function of individual nerves or the entire nervous system is disturbed by illness or damage, the impulses for triggering muscle activity can no longer be transmitted correctly. This can lead to a dysfunction of individual muscles, with the result that the affected extremities or body parts can no longer be moved or can only be moved to a limited extent. In these cases one speaks of muscle paralysis.
What is muscle paralysis?
Basically, one can distinguish between voluntary and involuntary movements of the muscles. The movements are controlled via different levels of the central nervous system. Voluntary movements include, for example, deliberately and purposefully grasping an object or lifting a foot to climb stairs. See electronicsmatter for Meniere’s Disease Definition.
Involuntary movements, on the other hand, are incidental and automatic and ensure, for example, that balance is maintained during voluntary movements. If muscle activity is impaired due to damage, this can lead to slight and temporary paralysis of individual muscles to massive and permanent failure and paralysis of large parts of the musculoskeletal system.
Suddenly occurring paralysis after mechanical damage (e.g. accident or herniated disc) can resolve spontaneously or be treated well with a suitable therapy. However, there are also chronic or congenital nerve and muscle diseases that cannot be cured and can lead to progressive paralysis (e.g. polyneuropathies or muscular dystrophies).
Muscle paralysis can be caused by a variety of factors.
- Mechanical damage: If individual nerves or muscle fibers are damaged or even severed as a result of an accident, paralysis can occur. A herniated disc is also a mechanical disorder that can lead to impaired movement.
- Vascular diseases: Small cerebral infarctions or cerebral hemorrhages up to strokes can lead to larger areas of nerve cells in the brain dying off. This can manifest itself in the form of sudden muscle weakness through to temporary or permanent paralysis of one side of the face and body.
- Diseases of the central nervous system: multiple sclerosis (MS) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are just two examples of such diseases. Both lead to progressive damage to nerve cells and permanent paralysis of increasing muscle areas.
- Bacterial and viral infections: With a simple tick bite, dangerous pathogens such as Borrelia can be transmitted and cause inflammation and paralysis in the nervous system. Viruses can also attack the nervous system and cause muscle paralysis, such as the polio virus in polio.
- Cancer: Tumors in the brain, muscles, bones or spinal cord can cause mechanical or biochemical paralysis.
- Poisoning: Certain neurotoxins can also inhibit the transmission of impulses between nerves and muscles. These toxins occur naturally, for example as batrachotoxin in the terrible poison dart frog or as botulinum toxin in spoiled canned goods.
- Alcohol dependence:’ Prolonged high alcohol consumption can lead to toxic-induced nerve and muscle damage and paralysis.
- Other causes: Psychological factors or migraines, for example, can also trigger symptoms of paralysis.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Muscle paralysis often occurs in the arms and legs (paresis), but can also affect individual skeletal muscles, for example the facial muscles, certain internal organs or the vascular muscles. Signs of muscle paralysis can appear suddenly and without any recognizable cause or gradually, progressively or in phases. The onset of paralysis is often announced or accompanied by tingling, numbness or sensory disturbances in the affected parts of the body.
Depending on the type and severity of the paralysis, serious complications can occur that make secondary treatment necessary. For example, paralysis in the lower extremities is often accompanied by a lack of control of the bladder and bowels by those affected, which requires support.
Sensory disturbances in paralyzed extremities can make injuries or infections go unnoticed and worsen. The most serious complications that can occur as a result of paralysis include breathing and swallowing reflex disorders, such as those that can occur with advanced ALS or paraplegia. In such extreme cases, those affected can only be ventilated and fed externally.
When should you go to the doctor?
Mechanical damage such as bruises, cuts or sprains can lead to temporary muscle paralysis. These should usually go away on their own once the injury has subsided and do not necessarily require a doctor’s visit.
In case of unclear signs of paralysis, however, a doctor should always be consulted. Muscle paralysis that occurs spontaneously can be the first sign of a serious illness. There is an urgent need for clarification by a doctor, especially if there are other abnormalities in the cardiovascular, speech or consciousness disorders.
If the signs even point to a stroke, the emergency doctor must be informed in any case. Even if signs of paralysis are only temporary but occur repeatedly, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
In order to be able to make a reliable diagnosis, those affected are usually first thoroughly questioned about their symptoms, course, family history and acute symptoms. This is followed by a physical and neurological examination, in which the movement restriction that occurs is assessed.
An accompanying blood test is often carried out. Depending on the findings, further imaging examination methods may be necessary, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the affected area.
Invasive examination methods such as a cerebrospinal fluid examination, muscle biopsy or special genetic tests can also be used for clarification. The results then lead to the diagnosis of muscle paralysis and its classification into different severe forms of paresis (loss of strength or partial paralysis), plegia or paralysis (complete paralysis).
Treatment & Therapy
Analogous to the different causes of muscle paralysis, there are also many different treatment methods and therapeutic approaches. Depending on the type of paralysis, these are used in a targeted manner.
Slight and only partial muscle paralysis with mechanical causes often heals by itself. Depending on the severity, minor operations may be necessary to restore the severed nerve and muscle connections. In the case of muscle weakness and paralysis due to a stroke, follow-up treatment with targeted physiotherapy is carried out to strengthen and strengthen the paralyzed half of the body. The associated paralysis of the facial muscles often resolves by itself after several weeks.
Bacterial or viral infections, on the other hand, are usually treated with a suitable antibiotic. In the case of Lyme disease, for example, a combination of active ingredients must be taken at fixed times over several weeks. The comparatively long duration of treatment is necessary because the bacteria only respond to the antibiotic effect of the medication during their division phases. Stopping treatment too early can result in a relapse.
In the case of tumours, surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy can lead to successful healing.
The treatment of neurological diseases is far more difficult, as the paralysis here is often progressive and irreversible. Often only the side effects can be treated and the progression of the disease can be delayed as far as possible.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis and the prospect of complete recovery must be differentiated in the case of muscle paralysis due to the many different causes. A large part of the paralysis can recede on its own, be treated successfully with suitable therapy or manifest itself permanently. The prerequisite for this is the timely consultation of a knowledgeable doctor in case of doubt, who prescribes the appropriate therapy in consultation with the person concerned.
Patients with muscle paralysis are either acutely or permanently in a difficult phase, since the quality of life can be more or less impaired depending on the severity of the movement restriction. In severe cases, the muscle paralysis can lead to immobility or a permanent inability to work, which presents the patient with additional psychological difficulties, which can also trigger secondary diseases such as depression or psychosomatic complaints. The prognosis can only be determined in individual cases in consultation with the doctor treating you.
Unfortunately, as the disease progresses, it often happens that the symptoms of paralysis or only the secondary diseases can only be alleviated symptomatically and a further worsening of the symptoms can only be slowed down. In severe cases, especially in the case of neurologically caused paralysis, palliative medicine is often the only option to alleviate the patient’s suffering and to support his or her quality of life as much as possible in the context of a severely limited life expectancy.
Prevention is particularly difficult in the case of cancer or neurological or psychological factors that promote muscle paralysis. A healthy lifestyle with sufficient exercise, alcohol and other stimulants in moderation and a healthy diet is generally advisable.
Check-ups offered by health insurance companies, which often include a blood test, should be taken advantage of. In this way, changes in the composition of blood or urine can often be diagnosed and treated at an early stage. In everyday life and during sports training, care should be taken to ensure that movements are carried out carefully and in a way that prevents accidents, in order to avoid mechanical damage to the musculoskeletal system.
A particularly high level of hygiene can be helpful against paralysis caused by bacterial infections. Frequent and thorough washing of hands often prevents the spread of bacteria and viruses. In order to prevent an infection with Borrelia, suitable protective clothing should be worn when staying in nature, especially in risk areas, and a tick check should generally be carried out afterwards.
In the case of muscle paralysis, in most cases the patient has only very few and only very limited follow-up measures available. The person concerned is primarily dependent on a quick and, above all, a very early diagnosis in order to alleviate and limit the symptoms. The sooner a doctor is consulted, the better the further course of the disease.
Ideally, those affected should consult a doctor as soon as the first signs and symptoms appear. Most of those affected are dependent on various exercises and measures of physiotherapy or physiotherapy. These exercises can also be repeated at home to permanently relieve the symptoms. The affected person should generally avoid heavy physical exertion or stressful activities in order not to strain the body unnecessarily.
The care and support of one’s own family is also very important in order to limit the symptoms and also to avoid psychological upsets. When taking medication, it is always important to ensure that the dosage is correct and that it is taken regularly. If anything is unclear or if there are side effects, a doctor should be consulted.
You can do that yourself
In case of doubt or concerns, a doctor should always be consulted when muscle paralysis occurs. Even if the treatment is lengthy in some cases, the therapy should definitely be continued in order to increase the chance of successful treatment.
In the case of a poor prognosis with progressive disease progression of a neurological nature, courage should not be lost. Although there is still no therapy available to eliminate the causes of these symptoms of paralysis, scientific research in these areas is constantly yielding new treatment methods and, above all, supportive measures that significantly improve the quality of life.
Physiotherapy, massages and ergotherapeutic measures help to train the muscles, prevent pain and promote mobility in the affected areas. Participation in self-help groups or psychological counseling can also contribute to increased well-being and acceptance of the changed situation among those affected.