Paralysis is when you are not able to move some or all your body. It can be temporary or permanent depending on what causes it.

Symptoms of paralysis

You may have paralysis if:

This can start suddenly or gradually, or come and go.

Immediate action required: Call 999 if:

You or someone else has paralysis or weakness:

  • that happened suddenly
  • after a injury to the head, neck or back
  • that causes problems with speech, breathing or swallowing
  • that affects 1 side of the face (your face may droop on 1 side) or 1 arm (you may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there)
  • and cannot feel part or all of your face and body, and you feel tingling

These problems could be a sign of something serious that needs to be treated in hospital straight away.

Causes of paralysis

Paralysis can be a symptom of many different conditions that affect the muscles and nerves.

Common causes of paralysis include:

Sometimes paralysis can be temporary, like having sleep paralysis, or long-term, like muscular dystrophy.

It can also be caused by a brain tumour or certain types of cancer like head or neck cancer.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

You or someone else has paralysis or weakness that:

  • started gradually
  • is getting slowly worse
  • comes and goes

Treatment for paralysis

Treatment for paralysis will depend on what's causing it.

Temporary paralysis may go away on its own without medical treatment.

Things that can help people with paralysis include:

Page last reviewed: 17 July 2023
Next review due: 17 July 2026