Flaccid vs. Spastic Paralysis

Flaccid vs. Spastic Paralysis

Paralysis is a medical condition in which an individual has no control of the muscles in a certain area of their body, causing them to experience different levels of paralysis.

While paralysis can have many different levels of severity, it can often have profoundly disruptive effects on an individual’s life, impacting their ability to move, speak, and even breathe.

It’s important to understand the different types of paralysis because each type requires a different approach to diagnosis and treatment. This article will discuss the two most common types: flaccid paralysis and spastic paralysis.

What You'll Learn...

Flaccid Paralysis

Flaccid paralysis is a type of paralysis caused when the nervous system cannot send messages from the brain or spinal cord to the muscles. This results in the inability to move certain muscle groups and a decrease in reflexes and muscle tone.

Flaccid paralysis can affect any body part, but it’s most often seen in the arms, legs, face, and throat. The most common causes of flaccid paralysis are spinal cord injuries and damage to the nerves that control muscle movement.

This paralysis is often associated with strokes, traumatic brain injuries, transverse myelitis, and certain infectious diseases like polio and meningitis.

Symptoms of Flaccid Paralysis

Symptoms of flaccid paralysis include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Paralysis of the affected area.
  • Individuals may experience difficulty speaking, moving, and breathing. They may also lose sensation in the affected area.

Flaccid Paralysis Treatment

Treatment for flaccid paralysis focuses on restoring movement and sensation in the affected area. This often involves physical therapy, muscle-building exercises, and occasionally, surgery.

For severe cases, patients may require assistive devices, such as a wheelchair or walker.

Spastic Paralysis

Spastic paralysis is a type of paralysis caused by damage to the parts of the brain or spinal cord that control muscle movement. Unlike flaccid paralysis, spastic paralysis is characterized by stiff, jerking muscle contractions.

Spastic paralysis is typically associated with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or spinal muscular atrophy.

Symptoms of Spastic Paralysis

Symptoms of spastic paralysis include:

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Jerking or spasmodic muscle movements
  • Problems with balance
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Decreased sensation in the affected area.

Spastic Paralysis Treatment

Treatment for spastic paralysis involves managing the symptoms and preventing complications. This can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Medication
  • Assistive devices, such as leg braces or wheelchairs
  • In severe cases, surgery may reduce muscle stiffness and spasticity

Coping with a Paralysis Diagnosis

Being diagnosed with paralysis can be a life-changing and difficult experience. The emotional impact can be overwhelming and exhausting, as individuals grapple with coming to terms with their new reality. There are also practical considerations that may need to be addressed, such as accessibility and mobility.

In order to cope with the diagnosis, it’s important to focus on the positives and to get the proper support. It’s also important to stay informed about advances in paralysis care and research.

Here are some tips for managing life with paralysis:

  • Reach out to your support system. Talk to your friends and family about your diagnosis, and ensure you have a good support system.
  • Set realistic goals. Make sure your goals are attainable, and you take steps each day to work towards those goals.
  • Take time for yourself. Be sure to take time to relax and recharge. This will help you to stay positive and motivated.
  • Be positive and proactive. Focus on the positives and remind yourself of everything you can do.
  • Get involved. Get involved in your local community and look into resources for education and employment.

Additionally, there are many resources available to individuals living with paralysis.

Organizations like United Spinal Association and Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation offer education, advocacy, and research support. Medical professionals can also provide resources and advice on managing daily life with paralysis.

Advances in Paralysis Treatment

In recent years, advances in medical research and technology have revolutionized the treatment and management of paralysis. Current research and development focus on restoring movement in paralyzed individuals through stem cell therapies, electrical stimulation, and neural implants.

Stem cell therapy

Stem cell therapy is a promising area of research that is believed to have the potential to restore movement to paralyzed individuals. Stem cell therapy involves the implantation of stem cells capable of generating new brain cells and healing nerve damage.

These new cells can then establish new neural pathways that help the brain to regain control of the paralyzed muscles.

Neural implants

Neural implants are small electronic devices that can be implanted in the body to stimulate the spinal cord and the muscles. These implants can detect activity in the brain and nerves and use that information to communicate with the muscles, helping them to move more naturally.

Electrical stimulation

Electrical stimulation is another promising area of research in paralysis treatment, as it helps to stimulate the muscles and nerves, allowing them to regain some control of movement.

Electrical stimulation can also treat chronic pain, spasticity, and overactive reflexes, which are common in paralysis.


Flaccid paralysis and spastic paralysis are two of the most common types of paralysis. These two types of paralysis have different symptoms, causes, and treatments. It’s important to understand the difference between the two and recognize each type’s symptoms.

While there are currently no cures for paralysis, advances in medical research and technology are providing new hope for individuals with paralysis.


Is Guillain Barre Syndrome spastic or flaccid paralysis?

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is typically characterized by flaccid paralysis, which means that there is a loss of muscle tone and reflexes. This is in contrast to spastic paralysis, where there is an increase in muscle tone and reflexes. However, it’s important to note that the presentation of Guillain-Barre Syndrome can vary from person to person and may include both flaccid and spastic symptoms.

What part of the brain is damaged in spasticity?

The damage from spasticity most commly occurs in the cerebral cortex. The upper motor neurons in the brain or spinal cord that control muscle movement are affected as a result.

Can you walk with flaccid paralysis?

Walking with flaccid paralysis can be challenging because this type of paralysis causes a loss of muscle tone and strength in the affected muscles, making it difficult to control movement. However, the ability to walk with flaccid paralysis depends on the severity and extent of the paralysis, as well as the muscles and limbs affected.

How long does flaccid paralysis last?

The duration of flaccid paralysis can vary widely depending on the underlying cause and the extent of the nerve or muscle damage. In some cases, flaccid paralysis may be temporary and resolve on its own within a few days, weeks, or months. In other cases, it may be permanent and require ongoing management and rehabilitation.


  1. The Mayo Clinic – Spasticity management for spinal cord injury: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/spasticity-management/about/pac-20395011
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine – Spasticity: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/spasticity
  3. Gov.UK – Spastic Paralysis: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/acute-flaccid-paralysis-syndrome
  4. Healthline – Paralysis: https://www.healthline.com/health/paralysis