Treatment and definitions for hemiplegia vs hemiparesis after stroke
Hemiplegia and hemiparesis might sound very similar, but they have completely different meanings. In this article, you’ll learn the difference between hemiplegia and hemiparesis and how to treat both of these stroke side effects.
To put it simply, we’ll break down the word parts and then establish what the word means.
“Hemi” means “half” and “plegia” means “paralysis or stroke.”
When combined, hemiplegia means that half your body is paralyzed due to a stroke.
Although “paresis” also sounds like paralyzation, it actually means “weakness or partial loss of movement.”
So hemiparesis occurs when half of your body is weakened or has suffered partial loss of movement.
Here’s the main difference between hemiplegia and hemiparesis:
- Hemiplegia = paralysis in half the body
- Hemiparesis = weakness in half the body
- Hemiparesis is a less severe form of hemiplegia
Now let’s move onto different treatment options.
Treating Hemiplegia vs Hemiparesis after Stroke
Hemiplegia is a severe form of motor impairments after stroke, which means that treatment will be more intensive.
Someone with hemiplegia will need to take extra steps in their recovery, but both individuals with hemiparesis and hemiplegia can recover.
First, we’ll share 3 exercises to treat hemiparesis, then offer an extra treatment for those with hemiplegia to try.
Here are 3 ways to treat hemiplegia and hemiparesis after stroke:
1. Active Stroke Rehabilitation Exercise for Hemiparesis
If you remember one thing about stroke rehabilitation, remember this: Do NOT neglect paralyzed limbs.
If paralyzed or weakened limbs are neglected, it can lead to increased muscle stiffness and eventually cause your brain to forget how to use that limb altogether in a condition known as learned nonuse.
Instead, make sure that you get your affected limbs moving through therapeutic stroke exercises. For hemiparesis, start with active exercise. For hemiplegia, start with passive exercise (more details soon).
2. Passive Rehab Exercise for Hemiplegia
Individuals with hemiplegia can regain movement in their paralyzed muscles by doing passive exercise. This simply means assisting your affected side with your non-affected side. You can even have a caregiver help.
The benefit of passive exercise is that it helps activate neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself. Although your limbs might be paralyzed now, passive exercise can help rewire the brain so that you can move those muscles in the future!
Be patient, though. It takes a consistent, dedicated practice of passive exercise to regain mobility. But it’s possible! Just check out stroke paralysis success stories if you ever start to lose hope.
3. Range of Motion Exercise for Hemiparesis and Hemiplegia
Stroke survivors with either hemiplegia or hemiparesis can also benefit from range of motion exercises to help loosen the affected muscles.
4. Orthotics and Assistive Devices
In some cases, the use of supportive braces (or orthotics) are needed to maintain proper joint alignment.
For example, if your foot is weakened and you suffer from foot drop, the use of a supportive foot brace (or an ankle-foot orthotic) might be needed.
In other cases, the use of a sling might be needed if the ligaments in the shoulder are no longer able to hold the upper arm bone in its socket.
5. Compensation Techniques
For stroke survivors with hemiplegia, some compensatory techniques might be necessary. A compensation technique is simply a shortcut that you can use to adapt your tasks to your mobility level.
Around the house, adaptive equipment can help you get from one place to another safely and surely. In your wardrobe, adaptive clothing can provide necessary convenience and even allow you to change your full wardrobe from a completely seated position.
The Best Way to Overcome Hemiplegia or Hemiparesis
All of these stroke treatments are vastly different, and you might be wondering which one you should choose.
First off, orthotics and compensation techniques are essential for your safety. But there’s a caveat to this. While compensation techniques help you adapt to your stroke side effects, your ultimate goal should be to overcome those side effects, not adapt to them.
This is where neuroplasticity and rehabilitation exercise really help you out. They help you overcome the need for compensation techniques so that you have the best chance for a full recovery from stroke.
For example, if you have foot drop, you can use ankle foot orthotics as a compensation technique to help you walk safely. But the orthotic alone won’t help you recover. Rather, performing foot drop rehab exercises will help you regain the ability to walk normally again.
Essentially, use orthotics and compensation techniques where necessary, but make sure that rehabilitation exercise is a staple in your stroke recovery regimen.
The Difference in Treatment for Hemiplegia vs Hemiparesis — in One Sentence
While orthotics and compensation techniques help improve safety with hemiparesis and hemiplegia, only rehabilitation exercise will lead to improved mobility and a better recovery from stroke.