(Paralysis; Loss of Movement)
How to Say It: Pehr-ah-PLEE-jah
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Paraplegia is a complete or partial loss of movement or feeling in the lower half of the body.
Paraplegia happens when there is damage below the neck. The most common cause is trauma, such as from a sports injury or car accident. Other causes are:
This problem is more common in people who play contact sports.
The problems a person has will depend on how much of the spinal cord is affected. A person may have:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Neurosurgeons, orthopedists, and neurologists will be involved in the diagnosis.
Blood tests will be done. The fluid around the brain and spine may also be tested. This can be done with a lumbar puncture.
Images may need to be taken of the spine. This can be done with:
Nerve function may be tested. This can be done with:
Emergency care will be needed. It can prevent further damage to the nervous system. It may also include:
Therapy will be needed to improve function and quality of life. Choices are:
Paraplegia is often due to accidents that cannot be prevented.
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Spinal Cord Injury Canada
Eckert MJ, Martin MJ. Trauma: Spinal Cord Injury. Surg Clin North Am. 2017 Oct;97(5):1031-1045.
Management of chronic spinal cord injury. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/management-of-chronic-spinal-cord-injury. Accessed January 27, 2021.
Spinal cord injury information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Spinal-Cord-Injury-Information-Page. Accessed January 27, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/27/2021