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.