You are here

Hemiparesis

Hemiparesis is weakness on one side of the body. You can still move the affected side of your body, but with reduced muscular strength. Health care professionals such as physical therapists and occupational therapists play a large role in assisting you in your recovery from hemiparesis. Treatment is focused on improving feeling and motor skills, allowing you to better manage your daily living.

Expand All

What is Hemiparesis?

Hemiparesis or one-sided (“hemi”) weakness (“paresis) affects about 8 out of 10 stroke survivors, causing weakness or the inability to move one side of the body.  One-sided weakness can affect your arms, hands, legs and facial muscles. If you have one-sided weakness you may have trouble performing everyday activities such as eating, dressing, and using the bathroom. Rehabilitation treatments, exercises at home, and assistive devices can help with your mobility and recovery.

One-sided weakness in your arms, hands, face, chest, legs or feet can cause:

  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty walking
  • Impaired ability to grasp objects
  • Decrease in movement precision
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Lack of coordination

The location in the brain where your stroke occurred will determine where in the body you experience weakness. Injury to the left side of the brain, which controls language and speaking, can result in right-sided weakness. Left-sided weakness results from injury to the right side of the brain, which controls our nonverbal communication and certain types of behavior.

Can Hemiparesis be treated?

It is possible for you to increase or regain strength and movement on the affected side with rehabilitation. Working with a physiatrist, physical therapist and/or occupational therapist has proven to have a favorable impact on hemiparesis and mobility.

A variety of treatments are used to help improve the use and movement in your affected arms and legs. These include the following:

  • Modified constraint-induced therapy (mCIT).  This therapy restricts use of a less affected part of your body, which forces you to use the weakened part of your body. Regular practice can improve nerve function.
  • Electrical stimulation. Used in the treatment of one-sided weakness to enhance sensory awareness, strengthen a weakened body part (such as the arm, leg, hand, or foot) and improve range of motion.

This procedure consists of placing small electrical pads on the weakened muscles of your affected body part. An electrical charge helps your muscles contract as you work to make it move. Many of these electrical stimulation devices are covered by insurance and can be used at home.

  • Cortical stimulation.  An electrical stimulation of the part of your brain called the cortex. A tiny electrode is placed on the dura, the tough membrane that covers your brain. The electrode sends an electrical current to your brain while you undergo rehabilitation exercises.
  • Imagery.  Mental imagery or the process of imagining the movement of the affected part of the body activates areas of the brain and muscles as if you are actually doing an activity. The nerves in the brain involved in visualization and physical movement overlap, making this an effective activity when paired with other therapies in treating one-sided weakness.
  • Assistive Devices. Braces, canes, walkers and wheelchairs can lead to increased strength and movement. An ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) brace can help control your ankle and foot. A physical therapist can recommend the appropriate device. Training in safety procedures and the proper use of orthotics, including proper fit and maintenance, is essential.

Tips to live with hemiparesis

In addition to rehabilitation treatment, exercise at home and assistive aids can help increase mobility. Repeated practice and regular activity will help increase control and flexibility and re-establish nerve circuitry. You can learn specific activities to do at home that will help continue recovery after inpatient therapy. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting these exercises.

Home Modifications

Making home modifications such as the following can improve your safety:

  • Grab bars
  • Ramps
  • Raised toilet seats
  • Tub bench
  • Hand-held shower head
  • Plastic adhesive strips on the bottom of the bathtub
  • Long-handled brushes, washing mitts with pockets for soap
  • Electric toothbrushes and razors

Lifestyle Changes

Making simple lifestyle changes can help prevent falls and promote a healthier recovery. Some examples include:

  • Remaining active
  • Strengthening leg muscles and balance through exercises
  • Wearing flat, wide-toed shoes
  • Using a prescribed assistive device and not relying on furniture for support while walking
  • Taking precautions when taking medications that cause drowsiness
  • Paying close attention while walking

Find a Support Group

Go

Get Involved

For 30 years we have been the trusted source for free resources and education to the stroke community. Together, we empower survivors and their circle of care to thrive after stroke. Make your tax-deductible donation today to support the growing needs of the stroke community.