Post-Polio Syndrome - Exercise

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What types of exercise or physical therapy are helpful in managing symptoms associated with post-polio syndrome?

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What is the role of exercise in the treatment of post-polio syndrome?

The symptoms of pain, weakness, and fatigue can result from the overuse and misuse of muscles and joints. These same symptoms can also result from disuse of muscles and joints. This fact has caused a misunderstanding about whether to encourage or discourage exercise for polio survivors or individuals who already have post-polio syndrome.

Exercise is safe and effective when carefully prescribed and monitored by experienced health professionals. Exercise is more likely to benefit those muscle groups that were least affected by polio. Cardiopulmonary endurance training is usually more effective than strengthening exercises. Heavy or intense resistive exercise and weight-lifting using polio-affected muscles may be counterproductive because they can further weaken rather than strengthen these muscles.

Exercise prescriptions should include

  • the specific muscle groups to be included,

  • the specific muscle groups to be excluded, and

  • the type of exercise, together with frequency and duration.

Exercise should be reduced or discontinued if additional weakness, excessive fatigue, or unduly prolonged recovery time is noted by either the individual with post-polio syndrome or the professional monitoring the exercise.

Return to Post-Polio Syndrome

See what others are saying

Comment from: acem, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: December 05

I got the polio from the vaccine in 1952. By 1960 it had taken the triceps of my right arm and some of the chest muscle group on the front. Right lung was affected. Now the constant nagging knotting I felt when I was young is back and the weakening of the muscles seems worse all the time. Swimming and spa seems the best for me.

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Comment from: Billy"s Gal, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 28

I was diagnosed with polio in October 1952 when I was 16 months old. I spent a month in a polio ward of a hospital. Of course I do not remember, other than things that I am told. I was given whirlpool baths to help reduce the pain of the polio. My entire left side was affected. My original diagnosis was that I would not walk again, I proved them wrong. When I was released from the hospital I had to relearn to walk. I did so with shoes that were attached to a bent bar and the shoes were on a dial that the doctor could adjust to set my feet in the proper direction.

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