Pseudoparalysis is a paralysis that is not due to a disturbance in nerve conductivity. There are several forms of pseudoparalysis. Your treatment depends on the specific cause.


What is pseudoparalysis?

Pseudoparalysis is a collective term for paralysis that is not caused by changes in the conductivity of nerve cells. By definition, therefore, it is apparent paralysis. The prefix “pseudo” comes from the Greek and means something like deception. Thus, while pseudoparalysis is not true paralysis, it presents with deceptively similar symptoms. See whicheverhealth for Milkman Syndrome Meanings.

By definition, paralysis means complete paralysis of motor nerves in individual parts of the body. Since the transmission of nerve stimuli from the brain to the corresponding body parts is interrupted, individual muscles or muscle groups can no longer be stimulated there. Incomplete paralysis of the muscles, on the other hand, is called paresis.

Pseudoparalysis includes diseases that resemble, among other things, the appearance of progressive paralysis or other paralysis based on disturbances in nerve stimulus transmission. While the progressive paralysis in syphilis is caused by nerve damage, similar symptoms are observed in alcohol abuse (alcoholic pseudoparalysis) or arteriosclerosis.

Furthermore, muscle paralysis can also occur after a long period of immobilisation of the corresponding muscles or in the case of muscle scars without impairing the transmission of stimuli. Pseudoparalysis is also known to occur in vascular diseases and brain tumors. There is also Parrot pseudoparalysis.


The causes of pseudoparalysis are diverse. However, nerve damage is excluded in all of them. In this case it would be a matter of genuine paralysis. Possible causes are muscle tears, muscle weakness, prolonged immobilisation of the corresponding muscles, rheumatic diseases, but also brain diseases, alcohol abuse or arteriosclerosis.

In the case of muscle diseases, the signals from the brain arrive at the muscle via the motor nerves. However, they cannot be translated into muscle contractions due to muscle damage or muscle weakness. A typical example of this is the rotator cuff tear. This injury tears one or more tendons in the four shoulder muscles. The arm hangs down because a lateral lift is no longer possible.

Furthermore, the shoulder tendons can be calcified. The so-called tendinitis calcarea of ​​the shoulder tendons also causes paralysis of the arms. The so-called Parrot pseudoparalysis also causes a limp arm to hang down. The cause here is an epiphyseal detachment, which already occurs in the unborn child of a mother suffering from syphilis. Acute pseudoparalysis can also occur with tendinitis calcarea in the hip joint.

Like shoulder tendonitis, calcific tendinitis of the hip can be infectious, traumatic, or neoplastic. The muscles of the rotator cuff are affected. In the case of brain diseases, alcohol abuse or arteriosclerosis, insufficient signals are often sent via the motor nerve lines. This can also lead to apparent paralysis in addition to other symptoms. Some pseudoparalysis can also be psychogenic.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The symptoms of pseudoparalysis are similar to those of true paralysis and depend on the cause. Certain muscles or muscle groups become paralyzed. Paralysis of the shoulder muscles occurs in rotator cuff tears, Parrot pseudoparalysis and calcified shoulders, leading to the arms hanging down.

Although the causes of all three diseases are different, they do not involve nerve damage. The same applies to tendinitis calcarea in the hip joint, which becomes noticeable through paralysis of the hip muscles and pain in the hip. As already mentioned, the counterpart of progressive paralysis is pseudoparalysis with almost the same symptoms.

The progressive paralysis is caused by nerve damage in the context of syphilis. It leads to complete physical and mental degradation. The predominant symptoms are progressive dementia or the development of psychosis. In addition, signs of paralysis can occur.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Paralysis and pseudoparalysis are symptoms of different diseases that have to be clarified diagnostically. A prerequisite is always a comprehensive anamnesis of the medical history. Thereafter, imaging methods and laboratory tests are used to specify the disease.


The complications and the further course of a pseudoparalysis depend very much on the underlying disease. For this reason, a general prediction of the complications is usually not possible. However, those affected suffer from paralysis in various parts of the body as a result of the disease. This can lead to restricted movement and other limitations in the patient’s everyday life.

Most of those affected are then dependent on the help of other people in their everyday life. In the hip, it is not uncommon for pain or tension to occur. This pain often spreads to the back, so that those affected also suffer from pain there. If the pseudoparalysis is not treated, the physical and motor functions will deteriorate, resulting in mental retardation.

In most cases, the symptoms of dementia or psychosis appear. Pseudoparalysis also has a very negative effect on other people, which can lead to social problems and depression. Treatment of pseudoparalysis is carried out with the help of drugs and various therapies. Complications rarely arise. However, a cure for pseudoparalysis cannot be guaranteed.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the event of pseudoparalysis, a doctor should always be consulted. This disease does not heal itself and in most cases the symptoms worsen. The person concerned must therefore always consult a doctor if the symptoms of pseudoparalysis occur. The doctor should be consulted if paralysis occurs in various muscles in the body. The paralysis can occur sporadically and does not have to be permanent.

However, sporadic paralysis occurring for no particular reason always indicates pseudoparalysis. The earlier the doctor is consulted, the higher the probability of a positive course of the disease. In some cases, psychological symptoms or mental deterioration can also indicate pseudoparalysis and should therefore be examined by a doctor. Friends or relatives can also recognize the symptoms of the disease and persuade the affected person to see a doctor. The patient’s life expectancy may also be reduced by the pseudoparalysis.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of pseudoparalysis naturally depends on the particular cause. A rotator cuff tear is initially treated conservatively. If the pain is very severe, an operation is necessary in which parts of the pectoral muscle are transferred to the shoulder. Conservative treatment includes administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics.

Glucocorticoids are injected under the acromion. Physiotherapy with muscle building, manual therapies and various physical therapies are also carried out. Tendinosis calcarea of ​​the shoulder or hip joint is also initially treated conservatively until the calcium deposits have dissolved.

If that is not successful, various surgical therapies such as shock wave therapy, calcium suction or arthroscopy are available. In the case of all further pseudoparalysis, the underlying disease must be treated. Your prognosis depends on the success of the treatment of the underlying disease.


A general recommendation for the prevention of pseudoparalysis cannot be given because the causes of the paralysis are very different. Often it is just a symptom of an underlying disease. The risk of pseudoparalysis can of course be significantly reduced by preventing diseases such as diabetes or arteriosclerosis. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, plenty of exercise and abstinence from alcohol and smoking is generally recommended.


Follow-up treatment is required if the pseudoparalysis is caused by a tear in the rotator cuff in the shoulder and surgical intervention is required. Follow-up care is then extremely important. Follow-up treatment begins on the first day after the operation. The patient receives effective pain therapy that is individually tailored to him.

The primary goal is to avoid painful symptoms. In addition, special physiotherapy exercises are carried out, which are also individually adapted to the patient. For this purpose, the doctor first puts together a therapy plan. In the physiotherapeutic follow-up treatment, it is important on the one hand to immobilize the suture as much as possible and on the other hand to avoid muscle atrophy.

In the first ten days after the operation, the patient should rest his arm. He is also given an abduction cushion at a 45 degree angle for a period of four to six weeks. At the same time, mobilization exercises are started under the guidance of a physiotherapist.

Through the exercises, it is possible to improve tendon gliding and achieve greater tear resistance. In the further course, active exercises such as gliding exercises or pendulum exercises follow. After about six weeks, device-supported physiotherapy begins. Overall, the rehabilitation phase takes about three to six months. Around 50 percent of all positive treatment successes can be traced back to consistent follow-up treatment.

You can do that yourself

Once the doctor has diagnosed pseudoparalysis, he will do everything necessary to find out the cause of this paralysis. Because if the disease underlying the pseudoparalysis is cured, the affected body part is usually mobile again, provided the patient follows the doctor’s therapy instructions.

This adherence to the therapy – also known as “compliance” – is extremely important, since otherwise the healing of the pseudoparalysis cannot be guaranteed. Depending on the underlying disease, treatment over several years with various therapeutic approaches as well as medication and/or surgery may be necessary.

Pseudoparalysis is very distressing for many patients. It leads to a reduction in quality of life and often means that the patient is dependent on others because, for example, he can no longer dress himself or cope with everyday life. This also puts a strain on the patient’s relatives and can lead to social problems. This in turn leads to moodiness and even depression in the patient. Accompanying psychotherapy is recommended here.

Furthermore, the pseudoparalysis patient benefits from a healthy lifestyle in order to be able to heal the underlying disease better and prevent a new illness. Sufficient sleep and exercise in the fresh air are just as important here as a balanced diet with fresh, healthy food and lots of fruit and vegetables.