DOS & DON'TS, GENERAL THERAPIES
AND THINGS TO AVOID
What follows is a general, practical guide for post-polios to use and that summarizes in outline form the current thinking about post-polio. It is not a substitute for individual medical evaluation or therapy. It will be most valuable if it stimulates you to seek further and more specific information.
-Take time to rest: nap if possible during the day, work fewer hours,
take longer vacations.
-If you are experiencing increasing muscle weakness, exercise only
under the supervision of a knowledgeable physician.
-Make sure you get adequate nutrition.
-Be alert to (not obsessed with) changes in your body, and heed your
-Take note of any new symptoms plus clear or gradual changes. -Get enough exercise to prevent disuse atrophy, but not enough to
produce overuse damage.
-Learn how to pace yourself.
-Prevent the secondary complications of weakness, particularly falls;
this might entail the use of crutches or a cane, or a wheelchair for extended travel, or braces or other adaptive equipment. -Avoid weight gain; too much weight only aggravates stress on joints and
-Consider possible adaptations to your life style; even minor
adjustments--changes in hobbies or modes of transportation--can help. -Do not assume that every physician fully understands post-polio
problems; educate yourself, and never hesitate to ask questions. -Minimize alcohol use, particularly at bedtime; alcohol inhibits
swallowing, interferes with nutrition, and causes falls and other
-Try to maintain a positive attitude toward your health; accept change,
adapt, and never equate your self-worth with physical disabilities. -Post-polios with respiratory insufficiency should take common colds
-Get enough bulk-producing fiber in your diet. Avoid stimulant
-Medical evaluation of post-polios should include a complete history,
physical exam, and appropriate lab studies. -Muscle strength evaluation should be done by a registered physical
therapist or someone familiar with neuromuscular diseases. Repeat
muscle testing is now advised every year, even if there is no obvious
change in strength.
-The current recommendation is that all post-polios have a complete
medical evaluation covering the three major areas affected by polio: neuromuscular, circulatory, and respiratory. -Problems with extremities or joint function may require special
consultation--from physiatrists, orthopedists and/or neurologists--familiar with skeletal deformities and muscle weakness. -Experienced physical or occupational therapists can help determine
functional losses and how best to adapt. -Muscle stretching and joint range-of-motion exercises are important
where there is muscle weakness.
-Swimming is the best cardiovascular endurance and general conditioning
exercise. Water temperature should be warm (at least 90 degrees). -discontinue an exercise that causes pain, weakness, or muscle fatigue,
-Muscles weakened by polio respond poorly to vigorous strengthening
programs. Such programs--weight lifting, for example--often
aggravate the condition.
-Post-polios should know their own strength limits or endurance and
avoid going repeatedly to that limit. -Post-polios should avoid narcotics for any reason; aspirin is
preferred as an analgesic for muscle or joint pain. -Occupational therapists can help assess upper extremity function, daily
activities, and need for assistive devices--all to help achieve the highest level of independence possible. -Rest is the best known treatment for aching muscles. Moist heat,
anti-inflammatory medication, and avoiding exertion are also helpful. -Physical therapy--heat, massage, joint mobilization, and stretching
exercises--can help chronic lower back pain. -Change of gait pattern, such as using crutches, may be needed to
prevent recurrence of lower back pain. -Post-polios MUST learn to conserve energy. -Post-polios, even though once rehabilitated, must be re-evaluated and
learn new techniques to replace those that no longer work. -Body positioning during sleep is important for post-polios with severe
weakness, postural or joint deformities. -Post-polios with marginal respiratory reserve at sea level should be
prepared to use respiratory aid when traveling to elevations above
-Post-polios with respiratory insufficiency are advised to receive the
influenza vaccination according to U.S. Public Health Service guidelines and recommendations.
Compiled by the Post-Polio League for Information and Outreach (P-POLIO)
Handbook on the Late Effects of Poliomyltis, 1984, ed. by Gini Laurie,
Federick M. Maynard, M.D., D. Armin Fischer, M.D., Judy Raymond; published by the Gazette International Networking Institute, St. Louis, MO.
1st Annual Research Symposium on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis, Warm
1981 Rehabilitation Gazette, reporting on the 1st International
Symposium on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis.
Conference at Sister Kenny Institute, Minneapolis, MN, on September 26,
Conference at Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, NY, on October 12,