Guillain-Barré syndrome - Recovery 

Recovering from Guillain-Barré syndrome 

Most people (about eight out of 10) with Guillain-Barré syndrome make a full recovery.

It usually takes several weeks to recover after the start of symptoms. However, some people will need to spend longer in hospital or a neurological rehabilitation unit. While some people recover quickly, it can take a year or more before a full recovery is made.

You may not be able to walk unaided, have numbness or weakness in your arms or legs, and you may have persistent fatigue (extreme tiredness).

Read more about the complications of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The following therapies may be used to help your recovery.

Counselling

Counselling is a talking therapy that you may find useful if you have Guillain-Barré syndrome, or while you are recovering from it. During counselling you will be able to:

  • discuss your problems honestly and openly
  • address any issues that are preventing you from achieving your goals and objectives 
  • achieve a more positive outlook on life

The Guillain-Barré Syndrome Support Group is a UK-based charity that offers advice and support to those affected by the syndrome.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy can help restore movement and function to a person's full potential.

A range of techniques are used to help relieve any pain, discomfort and muscle stiffness. These include:

  • movement and exercise  taking into account a person's current level of health and specific requirements
  • manual therapy  where the physiotherapist uses their hands to relieve pain and stiffness
  • aquatic therapy  a form of physiotherapy carried out in water
  • other techniques  such as heat, cold and acupuncture to ease pain

Occupational therapy

An occupational therapist will be able to identify any problems that Guillain-Barré syndrome causes in your everyday life, and help you work out practical solutions.

For example, if you have difficulty walking unaided, an occupational therapist will be able to help you find a suitable walking stick, walking frame or wheelchair.

Read more about occupational therapy.

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2012

Next review due: 09/10/2014

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Comments

The 11 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

GBSGill said on 04 July 2013

If anyone who has been affected by GBS, CIDP or any of the variant conditions would like further information or support, please get in touch with the GBS Support Group, by email to support@gbs.org.uk or via our 24 hour Helpline 0800 374803. Alternatively, find support on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/7829609636/

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jwel said on 21 May 2013

I was diagnosed with GBS in March of this year. After an earlier bout of Diaorreah my legs and feet became weak. After 2 days I could barely walk up the stairs and then lost the use of my legs and arms completely. I went into A&E and after having some blood tests taken was diagnosed with GBS I spent 4 weeks in hospital and was given IVUG as a treatment. After a week of treatment I got the use of my hands back but the leg movements took a bit longer but I am glad to say I am now on the road to recovery with regular exercises and physiotherapy I can now walk, albeit with the aid of a stick The only thing I find frustrating is not being able to drive but I'm sure that will come in time. After reading some of these comments I think I have done pretty well.

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BobC60 said on 01 August 2012

I am 60 yr male, was suddenly struck with what was later diagnosed as GBS on Apr 15, 2011. Was quickly put on ventilator, tube feed, IV and have no memory of first 6 weeks. Spent total 11 months in hospital, the first 8 months in ICU with ventilator, etc. Am recovering, but very slowly - still have paralyses in lower legs and hands. Using motorized wheelchair with limited walking using walker and AFOs to get around.

I was always in pretty good shape...even played rugby against your Barbarians when they visited Boston USA in our 1976 bicentennial year. More recently ran 4 NYC marathons in my 50's. Reading significant number of GBS updates on the Internet, it seems recovery is much quicker in virtually every case. Maybe my having Type I diabetes for 45 years helps explain a slow recovery??

Have seen numerous doctors, but none can explain why my recovery is so slow...nor can they tell me when or if I'll ever get back to walking, writing or performing the ADLs by myself. Any feedback would be much appreciated!

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Mansio said on 25 March 2012

I woke up on Boxing day 2011 and was unable to stand up. My legs were aching and it seemed like the pain was in the exact same place in both legs. My right arm was very painful. I went to the emergency doctors on New Tears day 2012 and was sent to hospital. I was admitted to ward 231 at the City General and diagnosed with GBS and septacemia. My treatment consisted of IVIG and IV antibiotics. My diabetes was IV controlled for the first few days. I am currently waiting to see a neuro physiotherapist to try to sort out my right arm. I have been prescribed amitriptyline and pregablin for pain releif. I was in hospital for 19 days and at one point they were considering sending me to ICU.

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Canada Don said on 02 March 2012

I am a 64-year-old Canadian man, who was suddenly struck with Guillain-Barre syndrome on Feb. 5th, 2012. I awoke feeling general weakness, and was paralyzed by the end of the day. I was hospitalized that same night, and diagnosed the next day.

After a week in ICU and 5 days of IVIG treatment, I began an unusually rapid recovery. Ten days on, I was able to feed myself (with difficulty), and take my first few shuffling steps, and 48 hours later (Feb. 15th), was able to go home to continue my recovery.

Today (March 2nd), I am 90% recovered, with some residual discomfort akin to arthritis in my hands, chiefly overnight. I consider myself very lucky to have been diagnosed and treated quickly, and to have bounced back so fast.

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Canada Don said on 02 March 2012

I am a 64-year-old Canadian man, who was suddenly struck with Guillain-Barre syndrome on Feb. 5th, 2012. I awoke feeling general weakness, and was paralyzed by the end of the day. I was hospitalized that same night, and diagnosed the next day.

After a week in ICU and 5 days of IVIG treatment, I began an unusually rapid recovery. Ten days on, I was able to feed myself (with difficulty), and take my first few shuffling steps, and 48 hours later (Feb. 15th), was able to go home to continue my recovery.

Today (March 2nd), I am 90% recovered, with some residual discomfort akin to arthritis in my hands, chiefly overnight. I consider myself very lucky to have been diagnosed and treated quickly, and to have bounced back so fast.

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Space53 said on 12 March 2011

My partner has gbs has been in hospital since just before xmas, after he had pins and needles for around two weeks and kept collapsing and then could not walk. He was admitted it to hospital. He was moved to two different hospitals for treatment and then to a rehab department in a different hospital to make a recovery. Then the condtion went to his lungs and he got worse, was moved back to a different hospital and put in icu for a week then normal ward for a few weeks, before been moved back to the rehab department. He is now having physo on a daily basis but can not stand or walk yet. Is just getting strength back in his hands. He has also lost nearly 8 stone in weight, he is tall. Just wondering how long it has taken other people to recover with this condtion. Any comments will be gratefull. Ty.

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kerencobey said on 17 December 2010

i was diagnosed with this around 1981, i was 5 yrs old. i remember being rushed to hospital and being there for months. i had lumbar punchers every other day and loads of other tests. i was in a lot of pain and couldnt bare anyone touching me, even the bed sheets was held off my body to stop the pain. it took me over 2yrs to learn to walk again with daily visits to the pool and thereapy. i still wear my callipers now and im 33, my balance isnt good and wearing callipers is painful, i still have total weakness in my legs and seem to get tired and drained quickly.

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pinkytoes said on 29 August 2010

My husband is just recovering from GBS and he was in icu for 4 weeks.He was completely paralised but is now making a good recovery. He still has a little weakness in his arms and legs but seems to be getting stronger by the day, thank goodness and the health Service that got him this far.

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still ill said on 31 October 2009

In 1979 I had GBS i was aboard at the time , I was effected from the chest down, the recorvery was long and although I recovered enough to walk again, i have always felt weakened by this illness, i suffer from pins and needles and struggle against fatigue, and other body pains etc.. i have been told my immune system has been weakened at one time i had to have blue badge i could'nt get around much,this illness has has a considerable effect on my life and i have to manage myself to cope with its after effects .

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ginnylin said on 21 October 2009

I was diagnosed with GBS in 1979, a couple of weeks after having flu. I had a 3month old baby at the time. I was very poorly, in hospital for some weeks, unable to walk for 3 months. At one point I was unable to even take a deep breath.I did make a full recovery, although it was a year before I could once more run upstairs,and feel in control of my balance.I would never consider having any type of flu vaccine for fear of triggering another attack.

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Physiotherapy

Find out how physio can help to promote healing and wellbeing

Counselling

Find out how counselling, a type of talking therapy, can help you, plus how to find a counsellor.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy provides practical support to people whose health prevents them from doing the activities that matter to them.