Managing the Late Effects of Polio


A report Identifying Best Practices in Diagnosis & Care was another outcome of the 2001 March of Dimes Conference. Polio-experienced health professionals recommend an interdisciplinary evaluation leading to a management plan that is designed specifically for the individual polio survivor.The plan may include a variety of recommendations including:

  • bracing to support weak muscles and/or over-used and stretched joints;
  • use of walking sticks and crutches to relieve weight on weak limbs and to prevent falls;
  • customized shoes to address unequal leg lengths, which can be the cause of back pain and requires extra energy to walk;
  • use of wheelchairs or motorized scooters for long-distance;
  • recommendation of weight loss;
  • recommendation of specific select exercises to avoid disuse weakness and overuse weakness;
  • management of pain through lifestyle changes, reduction of activity, pacing, stretching, and use of assistive devices;
  • use of a breathing machine at night to treat underventilation.

Polio survivors can also help them themselves by ‘listening’ to their bodies and ‘pacing’ their activities. With time, survivors can learn when to stop before they become over fatigued. Many survivors report feeling better after adopting assistive devices and interspersing activities with brief rest periods.