Tetraplegia: Limbs Paralysis


See the Causes, Symptoms, and Management of Tetraplegia

Tetraplegia is a medical term that refers to the paralysis of the upper and lower parts of the body, with the limb being the most affected parts. It results in the loss of feelings, sensation, and movement of the upper and lower limbs. This kind of paralysis is usually as a result of damage caused to the brain or spinal cord, not as a result of an underlying illness.

Being one of the most severe kinds of paralysis, its effects migrate from the limbs to the back, abdomen, and chest over time. Currently, no method or therapy has been discovered to reverse tetraplegia. However, some people have noticed an improvement of symptoms after certain management processes.

The area of the body which tetraplegia effects depend on the individual. However, about 80% of those with tetraplegia suffer from chronic limb damage.  The remaining percentage of people with tetraplegia have paralysis in their head, neck, and shoulders.

Other Kinds of Paralysis

With tetraplegia being the most common kind of paralysis, other groups of paralysis have been identified, each with its various areas of effects on the body. The following are the different kinds of paralysis asides tetraplegia, as well as the areas of the body they affect the most;

  • Monoplegia; this paralysis is known to affect only one single limb. It is usually common amongst people with stroke.
  • Paraplegia; paraplegia affects only the lower limb and other lower parts of the body.
  • Hemiplegia; attacks both limbs on one side of the body. It is caused by particular damage to the brain or spinal cord.
  • Triplegia; occurs in both legs and one hand. In this case, the spinal cord or brain damage spared some nerves.
  • Quadriparesis; is the permanent or temporary weakness to the limbs, both the upper and lower limbs. Studies have shown that bacteria and spinal cord injuries can lead to quadriparesis.

Each of the following paralysis occurs as a result of damage to different areas of the brain and spinal cord. More damage to the brain and spinal cord would spell more effects and impacts of different paralysis on the body.


The major and most obvious symptom of tetraplegia is paralysis on all four limbs. Other symptoms of tetraplegia are caused by the interruption of the communication between the brain and other parts of the body. These symptoms include;

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of sensation; inability to feel cold, heat, and touch
  • Pains from nerve injuries in the spinal cord
  • Muscle spasm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Loss of movement

These symptoms affect people’s daily activities and render them eventually to wheelchairs. People with tetraplegia may require assistance with almost everything. Some of these symptoms may lead to complications later on if not properly taken care of.

Severe symptoms include;
  • Loss of sensations and numbness in the limbs, fingers, and toes
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Weakness in the limbs and other parts of the body
  • Difficulty breathing after an injury
  • Twisted limbs, back or neck
  • Imbalance in walking
  • Severe back, head, or neck pain
  • Weird pressure on the head, neck, and back


A woman with back painThe major cause of tetraplegia is damage to the brain or spinal cord. Usually, the spinal cord and brain are organs that ensure a balance of the human body. They transport signals throughout the body to produce movement and balance. When the brain or spinal cord is damaged, paralysis sets in.

Different damages to the brain and spinal cord cause a different kind of paralysis. Damages to the spinal cord lead to tetraplegia.

The following are causes of brain and spinal cord injuries that can lead to paralysis;

  • Neurological medical conditions like cerebral palsy and stroke
  • Autoimmune medical conditions such as Guillain-barre syndrome and multiple sclerosis
  • Tumors
  • Brain lesions
  • Spinal cord lesions
  • Falls; people above the age of 65 could experience irreversible paralysis if they fall. This is because their bones and body have become so weak that they cannot withstand the pressure of certain falls.
  • Injuries from motor or sports accidents; motor accidents are known to be the highest cause of paralysis. It is the cause of over half of the yearly spinal cord injury cases.
  • Polio and other spinal cord infections
  • Violence; knife and gunshot injuries to the spinal cord or head could lead to permanent paralysis.
  • Alcohol; alcohol amounts to the cause of at least one case out of 5 cases of spinal cord injuries

Risk Factors

  • Male; gender is a risk factor of paralysis. According to research, men are more likely to suffer from tetraplegia than women.
  • Age; there is a high tendency that you may suffer from spinal cord injury if you are within the ages of 15 and 30. Also, adults of ages 65 and above are more likely to sustain spinal cord injuries from falls.
  • Joints and bones disorder; medical conditions like chronic osteoporosis and arthritis can affect the bones such that symptoms of tetraplegia begin to set in.
  • Physical activities; sporting and other physical activities tend to expose you more to the risks of sustaining spinal cord and brain injuries, as you are more exposed to falls. For instance, diving into shallow waters, engaging in physical activities without protective wears could lead to injuries.


The complications of tetraplegia, either as a result of improper treatment or as  a result of management therapies, include;

  • Depression; body changes that occur as a result of paralysis could leave you depressed, as you can no longer carry out basic activities like walking and bathing on your own without assistance.
  • Sexual health; as fun as sexual activities are, tetraplegia makes you lose 100% interest in sexual activities as you as a man may not have an erection, talk more of ejaculation. For women, vaginal lubrication becomes a once-in-a-blue-moon thing. Lack of oiling can make sex painful and will automatically make you lose interest in sex.
  • Respiration
  • Tetraplegia may tamper with your respiratory system such that you may find it difficult to breathe and cough.
  • Skin; tetraplegia makes you lose sensation. You begin to experience the inability to feel and perceive your environment. Your skin refuses to react to touches and hot or cold temperatures.
  • A bowel movement, the complicated aspect of tetraplegia, makes you lose control over your bowels.
  • Bladder control; the bladder at this point accumulates urine from the bladder and stores it.
  • Muscles; people with tetraplegia begin to lose control over their muscles, their movement, and tightening.
  • Weight gain and obesity; lying on one spot all day long could make you gain unnecessary weight as a result of immobility and the inability to engage in weight loss or general physical activities.
  • Pain; muscle, joints, and bone pains become more defined. Spinal cord injury can lead to nerve and muscle pain.


The treatment is focused on the easing of the symptoms of the illness as well as the reduction of complications. There is no known cure for tetraplegia. It can only be managed.

operating processThe following are the methods through which tetraplegia can be managed;

  • Psychotherapy; improves the emotional stability of the victim and reduces their chances of slipping into depression as a result of the loss of mobility.
  • Surgery; sometimes, surgeries can be carried out to transfer living nerves to the affected areas of the body so that they can begin to get better.
  • Physical therapy; includes massages of the affected area.


  • Engage in less risky physical activities and sports; wear safety and protective clothing to prevent severe injuries even if you fall.
  • Drive safely; always use your seat belts, avoid overspeeding and dangerous over-taking. Car accidents are major causes of the spinal cord and brain injuries that lead to tetraplegia.
  • Do not dive into shallow waters; confirm the dept of a pool or river before diving in. if possible, avoid diving. Just swim.
  • As much as possible, avoid getting into a fall, especially if you are 65 years old and above.
  • Avoid driving after you must have had alcohol or certain medications that could make you weak or sleepy.

In conclusion, tetraplegia is a kind of paralysis that affects the limbs and tampers your daily activities and general wellness. The effects of tetraplegia are usually irreversible. This is why there is no identified cure for tetraplegia. However, its symptoms can be managed through certain methods, which involve psychotherapy, surgeries as well as physical therapies.