Hemiplegia is where the body is paralysed in the arm, leg and torso on the same side. Hemiplegia is a common condition in people who have suffered a stroke, one side of the body is much weaker than the other.
Strokes are not the only cause of hemiplegia but here we concentrate on stroke patients and the causes and treatments available.
The most common cause of hemiplegia is that of a stroke. Following the attack, parts of the brain may have been damaged which stops or restricts signals passing from the brain to various areas of the body causing paralysis or reduced mobility of the muscles. Often this effects one side of the body.
Other symptoms are a reduction in movement control as well as rapid involuntary movements.
Hemiplegia can occur when the brain is starved of oxygen as in the case of a blood clot in the brain or bleeding, because the neurons are being restricted of oxygen, they die this causing brain damage. If the brain injury is on the left then the effects are seen on the right side of the body.
The signs of hemiplegia include the following:- Difficulty with holding, grasping such as squeezing ones hand, speech problems the slurring of words, a general slowness with everyday tasks such as speaking, walking and standing. Balance and muscle spasms as well as behavioral issues like anger, lack of concentration and depression.
The treatment of hemiplegia will commence once a doctor or health worker has assessed the patient. Usually a physiotherapist will work with the person and work on specific exercises relevant to the individual. It is important to exercise the body sufficiently to cause change whilst keeping a balance of not over stretching so some trial and error will be needed to achieve the correct balance.
The purpose of physiotherapy is to get as much function back as possible so the person can have a better quality of life. Various methods are available and these can be started whilst in the hospital or stroke unit and then continued when back at home. For example the good hand may be restrained thus forcing the use of the effected side as part of a regular exercise routine.
We need to remember that the body needs time to adapt and as with any exercise over doing it will slow the process as too will inadequate regularity, so the secret is little and often and gradually building up the strength and movement to the effected areas.
The prognosis for hemiplegia is that the conditions should not get worse and over time the patient should be able to improve, the extent of the recovery is of course determined by the severity of the stroke.
Further problems can occur for example a second stroke or blood clots, specialist drugs are given to help prevent this but in some cases it is unavoidable.