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Left Hemiplegia: Causes, Recovery Outlook, and Treatment

illustration of areas of the body affected by left hemiplegia

Left hemiplegia describes paralysis of the left side of the body due to neurological damage such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Luckily, many individuals with left hemiplegia have the potential to regain mobility on their affected side and improve their overall quality of life.

While hemiplegia can affect either side of the body, this article will specifically address hemiplegia on the left side. To help you understand left hemiplegia, this article will discuss its:

Causes of Left Hemiplegia

Left hemiplegia is caused by damage to the nervous system. While it is most common following damage to the brain (such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury), it may also occur following damage to the spinal cord or peripheral nerves.

Movement is the result of motor signals traveling between the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and muscles. When any of these pathways become damaged, individuals may experience weakness or paralysis.

Some common causes of left hemiplegia include:

  • Stroke
  • Brain infection
  • Brain cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

Each hemisphere of the brain controls movement on the opposite side of the body. For example, the right hemisphere controls movement on the left side of the body. This is why the two common causes of left hemiplegia are right hemisphere stroke and right hemisphere brain injury.

However, unlike the brain, each side of the spinal cord controls movement on the same side of the body. Therefore, when left hemiplegia occurs after spinal cord injury (a rare condition known as Brown Sequard Syndrome), it is caused by damage to the left side of the spinal cord.

Paralysis on the left side of the body may place individuals at risk of experiencing additional complications. To help you understand what to expect, the following section will discuss potential effects that may co-occur with left hemiplegia.

Left-Sided Hemiplegia Symptoms

Generally, individuals with left hemiplegia experience difficulties associated with lack of active movement, abnormal muscle tone, and impaired balance. For example, everyday movements such as sitting upright, standing, walking, and weight transference may become more challenging.

When half of the body becomes paralyzed, it forces the unaffected regions of the body to work harder to perform everyday activities. Consequently, individuals may experience increased levels of fatigue.

When left hemiplegia is caused by damage to the right side of the brain, individuals may experience additional secondary effects associated with right hemisphere brain damage such as:

  • Left neglect: this condition occurs when an individual has difficulties noticing objects on their left side. For example, they may only eat from the right side of their plate.
  • Attention problems: may make it challenging to focus on a task or follow a conversation.
  • Memory problems: may cause difficulties following a routine, learning new information, or recalling past events.
  • Prosopagnosia: refers to difficulties recognizing familiar faces. However, individuals with this condition are often able to identify their loved ones by their voices.
  • Social communication problems: such as lack of empathy or difficulties understanding non-verbal social cues may cause individuals to struggle in social situations.
  • Emotional problems: such as extreme mood swings or lack of facial expression commonly occur after damage to the right hemisphere.

Most people are right-handed, which means some functions like writing or using eating utensils may not be affected by left hemiplegia. However, it’s important for individuals to continue practicing movements with their left side to avoid learned non-use.

Learned non-use refers to the loss of function in the affected side. Because individuals become overly dependent on their unaffected side, they essentially forget how to use their affected side. For many, there is hope for recovery of the paralyzed side; however, individuals must consistently practice using it to promote improvements.

Is It Possible to Recover from Left Hemiplegia?

woman with left hemiplegia participating in physical therapy to regain mobility

Many individuals with left hemiplegia are able to recover motor control through neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the central nervous system’s ability to make adaptive changes and rewire its neural circuitry.

It allows for functions affected by neurological damage to be rewired to unaffected regions and strengthened through repetitive practice. Essentially, every skill you consistently practice stimulates the central nervous system and encourages it to make adaptive changes. The more you practice, the stronger the newly rewired pathways become.

Therefore, in order to improve movements affected by left hemiplegia, individuals must consistently practice moving the left side of their body. We’ll discuss effective ways to do this in the following section.

Left Hemiplegia Treatment

Treatment for left hemiplegia generally focuses on intensive training of the affected side to promote recovery and neuroplasticity. By working with physical and occupational therapists, individuals can learn effective ways to target their affected muscles and compensate for limited movement.

A physical therapist may recommend starting with passive range of motion exercises. This involves having a therapist/trained caregiver move your body for you or using your unaffected arm to move your affected body parts.

Although you’re not actively performing the movement, the movement itself can stimulate the central nervous system. To optimize neuroplasticity, you should also make an effort to actively pay attention to the movements. With enough repetitions, it may be possible to promote adaptive rewiring and gradually regain motor control in the affected side.

Therapists may also recommend additional interventions such as functional electrical stimulation (FES). FES involves placing electrodes over the affected muscles and using electrical emissions to produce muscle contractions. The electrical emissions mimic brain signals to stimulate movement.

Ultimately, improving motor control after neurological injury requires highly repetitive and specific practice. Home rehabilitation programs like FitMi can help motivate you to perform the repetitions necessary to improve by turning your everyday exercise routine into an interactive game. Finding fun ways to stay engaged and keep practicing will help you accomplish your rehabilitative goals.

Understanding Left Hemiplegia: Key Points

Left hemiplegia refers to paralysis on the left side of the body caused by neurological damage. While it may be worrisome to experience loss of motor control, there is potential for individuals to improve their mobility and regain their functional independence. Through intensive and highly repetitive training, individuals can encourage their brain and/or spinal cord to utilize neuroplasticity and make adaptive changes.

We hope this article helped you understand what to expect when living with left hemiplegia and the best practices for improving your mobility.

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Get Inspired with This Stroke Survivor Story

Mom gets better every day!

When my 84-year-old Mom had a stoke on May 2, the right side of her body was rendered useless. In the past six months, she has been blessed with a supportive medical team, therapy team, and family team that has worked together to gain remarkable results.

While she still struggles with her right side, she can walk (with assistance) and is beginning to get her right arm and hand more functional. We invested in the FitMi + MusicGlove + Tablet bundle for her at the beginning of August.

She lights up when we bring it out and enjoys using it for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time. While she still doesn’t have enough strength to perform some of the exercises, she rocks the ones she can do!

Thanks for creating such powerful tools to help those of us caring for stroke patients. What you do really matters!

David M. Holt’s review of FitMi home therapy, 11/09/2020

5 stars

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