What is Temporary Paralysis and What Causes it?

By Matt Lalande in Spinal Cord Injuries on October 03, 2020

What is Temporary Paralysis and What Causes it?

Paralysis is the loss of muscle function, and the inability to move or feel, in parts of your body and particularly occurs. Injury to the spinal column or spinal cord is normally what causes paralysis. Some types of paralysis are only temporary however – and can no doubt be a traumatic and frightening experience. Any time movement is restricted in the body, it is natural to feel panic and stress. For some individuals, temporary paralysis that occurs on an ongoing basis can cause distress and inability to work, placing additional financial burdens on themselves and their loved ones.

Also known as periodic paralysis, temporary paralysis often occurs when a spinal cord injury victim experiences a loss of motor function or mobility for a temporary or periodic basis, which normally happens because of muscle weakness, disease, or hereditary causes. It is possible to recover mobility from temporary paralysis, but in many cases it can become a periodic and chronic issue. 

What is Temporary Paralysis?

Temporary paralysis occurs when there is damage in the muscle cells, which can limit the flow of important and necessary nutrients through the nervous system to the rest of the body. In order for muscles to perform properly, they need to absorb a balanced amount of specific nutrients such as potassium and calcium. Without these nutrients, or without the proper balance of them, the muscles weaken and sometimes lose function entirely.  Symptoms of temporary paralysis may include such symptoms as loss of function in the limbs, muscle pain and/or stiffnessm, irregular heartbeat and muscle spasms.

These symptoms may occur once for a limited period of time and then recover on their own, or they may occur every once in a while depending on the nature of the injury. In some cases, temporary paralysis may occur on an on-and-off basis due to certain triggers, such as exercise or certain medications. 

Types of Temporary Paralysis

There are approximately 30 different types of temporary paralysis that an individual may experience depending on which nutrients arrive in the muscles through blood circulation. Some of the more common conditions include:

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis: Temporary paralysis that occurs due to decreased potassium levels.
Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis: Temporary paralysis that occurs due to an over-saturation of potassium in the blood.
Paramyotonia congenita: A disruption in balance between potassium and sodium levels in the muscles.
Andersen-Tawil syndrome: The body’s inability to properly balance potassium levels in the body, limiting flow through the muscles.

Permanent vs. Temporary Paralysis

The main difference between permanent and temporary paralysis is the duration of time that an individual is paralyzed, and generally this is characterized by the extent of the damage to the nervous system.

Temporary paralysis occurs because the muscle membrane in the body experiences a temporary disruption in signals. Permanent paralysis occurs when the body experiences a long-lasting loss of mobility or muscle control and the damage is irreversible. Therefore, temporary paralysis has a stronger chance of recovery. In some cases, temporary paralysis can be reversed with medical technologies or through physical rehabilitation. 

Ultimately, temporary paralysis does eventually go away, while permanent paralysis does not in the majority of cases, and permanently paralyzed individuals will likely never recover their motor functions. 

Causes of Temporary Paralysis

Temporary paralysis is usually caused by damage or disruption in the genes, which impact the muscle membrane and prevent it from completing its functions. Traumatic damage can puncture the muscle membrane and disrupt these signals. 

The most common cause of temporary paralysis is spinal cord injury from a traumatic accident such as a car accident or slip and fall. Spinal cord injury comprises approximately 27.3% of all paralysis cases and is the leading traumatic cause; the leading non-traumatic cause is stroke. Athletes who play contact sports are also at higher risk for temporary paralysis from transient spinal cord injury. Individuals who go into shock after a particularly traumatizing or catastrophic accident may also experience temporary paralysis.

In some cases, a severe infection from an injury can also cause temporary paralysis if it is not effectively treated immediately. For example, diseases from insect bites, such as Zika Virus and West Nile Virus can cause brain infection and temporary paralysis if the insect is carrying them while puncturing the skin. 

Other times, temporary paralysis can be caused in individuals who are susceptible to periods of paralysis after exposure to certain triggers, such as changing temporatures, extreme hot or cold temperatures, anxiety, hunger, excitement, stress or trauma. The periodic paralysis can result in severe muscle weakness and the partial or complete inability to move parts of the body.

Can I get Temporary Paralysis from COVID-19?

Yes. Covid-19 can unfortuantley wreak havoc on a person’s nervous system. Coronavirus can cause complications such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a neurological condition in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord (your periphreal nervous system). GBS can lead to temporary paralysis.

About our Hamilton Personal Injury Law Firm

Our law firm has been representing victims who have suffered life changing injuries and disability claimants since 2003 If someone’s negligence has caused you life-changing pain and suffering, you have every right to seek fair compensation to alleviate the financial burden you have been left with.   Book a free, no-obligation consultation to speak to us at no charge and go over the options available to you. If you are too unwell to travel, we will happily come to you at your convenience, and give you our utmost dedication and empathy. There is no harm in seeing what options you have. Call us today nationwide at 1-844-LALANDE or local at 905-333-8888 for your free consultation today.



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