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Hemiparesis - Types, Treatment, Facts and Information

  • Published: 2010-09-14 (Revised/Updated 2017-01-17) : Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Hemiparesis is a condition that is commonly caused by either stroke or cerebral palsy.

Hemiparesis is a condition that is commonly caused by either stroke or cerebral palsy, although it can also be caused by multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and other diseases of the nervous system or brain.

The word, 'hemi,' means, 'one side, while, 'paresis,' means, 'weakness.' Approximately eighty-percent of people who experience a stroke also have some level of trouble moving one side of their body, or have weakness on one side. Hemiparesis is a condition that is commonly caused by either stroke or cerebral palsy, although it can also be caused by multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and other diseases of the nervous system or brain. Hemiparesis is related to a condition called,'hemiplagia,' involving paralysis of one side of a person's body, instead of weakness. There are a number of reasons people develop hemiparesis, although the condition most commonly occurs as a secondary complication of another medical issue. The treatment options for hemiparesis differ depending on the reason why a person has developed the condition.


Brain damage caused by head injuries, cancerous growths in a person's brain, or disease may also lead to the development of muscle weakness. Muscle weakness appears in the side of the person's body that corresponds to the area of the brain that has been injured. Damage to the person's spinal cord may include damage caused by trauma, such as injuries received through a fall, a car accident, or a wound received in a fight or combat. Conditions including multiple sclerosis, as well as some forms of cancer, may also cause lesions on a person's spinal cord that interfere with the functioning of their nerves.

The muscle weakness that is characteristic of hemiparesis may be caused by lesions in a person's spinal cord which damages their nerves and innervates their muscles, leading to weakness. Damage to the person's brain can lead to muscle weakness as well. Stroke; however, is the most common reason people develop hemiparesis. At times, muscle weakness is one of the key symptoms of stroke, bringing people to the hospital in the first place.


When a patient presents with hemiparesis, the first step is to determine the origins of the muscle weakness. Medical imaging studies can be used to isolate the location of the damage, and the patient will also typically be interviewed to collect a medical history for the purpose of identifying obvious risk factors. If a patient says that he or she has multiple sclerosis, for example, the doctor will likely attribute the hemiparesis to this condition and may conduct tests to confirm.

Forms of Hemiparesis

People who experience hemiparesis can have difficulty moving their legs and arms, walking, and might also have a loss of balance. Due to this, performing everyday activities such as dressing, eating, grabbing objects, or using the bathroom can be more difficult. Loss of abilities related to a stroke or hemiparesis depend upon the area of the person's brain that has been damaged.

Treatments and Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation can help people with hemiparesis to learn new ways of moving and using their legs and arms. There is potential, with immediate therapy, for people who experience hemiparesis to eventually regain movement. There are a number of professionals involved in rehabilitation for hemiparesis.

Treatment of hemiparesis may include treatment of the person's underlying condition with the goal of resolving the hemiparesis, or ending its progress entirely. Physical therapy is an important part of the person's treatment. Therapy assists people to regain control of their muscles while developing muscle strength. Physical therapists might also give a person adaptive tricks and tips that can help them to navigate a world that has been created for people who have full muscle strength in both sides of their body. Assistive devices to include walkers, braces, and wheelchairs may also be helpful to people who have difficulties with walking as a result of hemiparesis.

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