Text Size




Paralysis is the inability of a muscle or group of muscles to move voluntarily. Muscles are controlled by messages sent from the brain that trigger movement. When part of the brain is damaged after a stroke, messaging between the brain and muscles may not work properly. Paralysis or muscle weakness are sometimes referred to as “movement” impairments, and they affect up to 90 percent of stroke survivors who lose or have impaired motor function. Paralysis or weakness can affect any part of the body.

Many stroke survivors experience one-sided paralysis, known as hemiplegia, or one-sided weakness, known as hemiparesis. These conditions can present as paralyzed or weak limbs, facial muscles or loss of control of organs like the bladder. Locked-in syndrome is an example of severe paralysis that leaves a person unable to move any muscles except those that control the eyes.

Post-stroke paralysis symptoms may include but are not limited to:
  • Weakness
  • Incoordination
  • Sensory deficits
  • Balance problems
Photo of patient with physical therapist


The most common movement impairment is hemiparesis, which refers to one-sided (“hemi”) weakness (“paresis”). Hemiparesis affects roughly 80 percent of stroke survivors, causing weakness or the inability to move one side of the body. Weakness can impact arms, hands, legs and facial muscles. Learn more about how the location of a stroke can impact how hemiparesis presents itself, plus treatment methods, management tips and educational resources.

Photo of man in chair with assistance gardening


Spasticity is a form of paralysis that affects roughly 40 percent of stroke survivors and is characterized by stiff or tight muscles. The tight muscles constrict movement, making it difficult to lift things, walk or perform daily activities of living. Learn more about symptoms, treatment and management tips for spasticity.

Photo of woman with visitor


Stroke is the leading cause of dysphagia, which is the paralysis of the throat muscles. This can disrupt the swallowing process and make eating, drinking, taking medicine and breathing difficult. More than 70 percent of stroke survivors experience dysphagia at some point after a stroke. Identifying swallowing issues early reduces hospital stays, healthcare costs and complications that include but are not limited to dehydration, malnutrition, aspiration and pneumonia. Learn about the symptoms, treatment and management of dysphagia.

Photo of man working with physical therapist

Foot Drop

Foot drop is common after a stroke. The condition is characterized by weakness or paralysis that limits the ability to raise the front part of the foot. The foot or ankle drops down when the leg is lifted to take a step. A person with foot drop may trip and fall if the foot and ankle are not supported by a brace at all times.

Foot drop can result when nerves are damaged during a stroke. Partial or complete recovery is possible with the help of rehabilitative therapy. Physical therapy is central in strengthening muscles and joints.

More Resources

Education IconPublications

Fact Sheet IconFact Sheets

Presentations iconMultimedia

Get Involved

Stroke and You

Subscribe to StrokeSmart Now

National Stroke Association

9707 E. Easter Lane, Suite B
Centennial, CO 80112

Stroke Help Line logo