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Migraine Symptoms – Hemiplegia

Some Migraine symptoms seem “normal” to us and don’t cause us much concern when they occur. Others can be pretty frightening. One potential Migraine symptom that can cause considerable concern is hemiplegia.

Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary defines hemiplegia as…

“total or partial paralysis of one side of the body that results from disease of or injury to the motor centers of the brain.”

In other words, hemiplegia is paralysis of one side of the body. The word is a combination of two words from Greek: hemi, which means half, and plegia, which means paralysis.

HemiplegiaThe only form of Migraine in which hemiplegia is experienced is hemiplegic Migraine. It can occur with both familial hemiplegic Migraine (FHM) and sporadic hemiplegic Migraine (SHM). The difference between FHM and SHM is whether there is a family history of hemiplegic Migraine:

  • The International Headache Society defines FHM as, “Migraine with aura including motor weakness and at least one first- or second-degree relative has migraine aura including motor weakness.”
  • SHM is defined as, “Migraine with aura including motor weakness but no first- or second-degree relative has aura including motor weakness.”

Hemiplegia caused by hemiplegic Migraine is usually “fully reversible,” meaning that it completely stops when the Migraine ends. It can begin during the aura phase of the Migraine attack or during the headache phase.

When listing or describing the symptoms some experiences with a Migraine, it’s important to differentiate between hemiplegia, motor weakness, and paresthesia. Paresthesia is abnormal or unpleasant sensation often described as numbness or as a prickly, stinging, or burning feeling.

When hemiplegia is experienced for the first time, it’s important to rule out other causes of it, such as stroke, before attributing it to Migraine, as is also true with motor weakness.

Some patients with hemiplegic Migraine may also have already had strokes, so identifying the source of hemiplegia can be problematic within individual Migraine attacks. For those patients, discussing with our doctors in advance what to do and when to seek care for hemiplegia or other symptoms is crucial.

It’s strongly recommended that patients with hemiplegic Migraine wear medical identification and keep a copy of essential medical information with them. If hemiplegia strikes when someone is out in public, having this information can help them get appropriate care more quickly.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary. • International Headache Society. “International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd Edition” (ICHD-II), First Revision. May, 2005.


  • Sue Marie
    7 years ago

    Hi Teri
    Thanks so much for this article. I really do need to get a medical id bracelet. Just thinking back to years ago, my mom used have weakness in her arm and hand @ times, dropping things and having difficulty picking things up. Since I have experienced hemiplegia several times and my son has migraines I now realize it’s important to find out which type of hemiplegic migraine I have.
    Take care and God bless!

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