Techniques for Managing Post-Polio Syndrome

by Fredson T. Bowers, Jr., GBPPA Member

Given the fact that relatively limited research is taking place, is there anything that we can do to help ourselves? As a matter of fact, there is. Some very good medical advice is available, and the rest of it is mostly good old-fashioned common sense. The following techniques are offered for your consideration:

  1. Good nutrition - a balanced diet is important for everyone, but especially those who have less physical strength and energy because of post-polio syndrome (PPS).
  2. Energy conservation - pace your activities so as not to become overtired. Get more rest, if necessary.
  3. Retire early, if financially possible. It could be one of the best moves you have ever made.
  4. Make lifestyle changes as necessary in order to improve the quality of life. Use your ingenuity to find different ways of doing things.
  5. Moderate exercise is important (listen to your body). Exercise enough to prevent disuse atrophy, but not enough to produce overuse damage. No heavy weight lifting. If you feel tired after exercising, you are doing too much.
  6. Stretching exercises are important to relieve muscle imbalances, but since muscles and tendons protect joints, overstretching can cause damage.
  7. Long range planning - try to anticipate your future needs. Planning ahead also helps you to accept additional lifestyle changes when they become necessary.
  8. There are a large number of assistive devices available. Don't be too proud to use them or to accept the assistance of others, if required.
  9. Make sure that your physician and your physical therapist are familiar with PPS, since inappropriate treatment can be detrimental to your welfare. There are knowledgeable health care professionals at post-polio clinics sponsored by Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and New England Rehabilitation Hospital, both operating a number of neighborhood locations throughout the Greater Boston area.
  10. TRIUMPH, the Greater Boston Post-Polio Association quarterly newsletter, is available with a membership and contains articles of interest relating to PPS. For more information, call the voice mail line at 781-596-8245.
  11. Pain management is a relatively new field, but there are some helpful techniques available which can be fairly effective.
  12. As a last resort, orthopedic surgery can prevent or correct deformities resulting from severe muscle imbalances over a long period of time.
  13. Respiratory problems can be addressed by specialists, and there are various articles on the subject including one in the Winter, 1992 issue of TRIUMPH by Dr. Francis J. Curran, formerly of Lakeville Hospital.
  14. Join a post-polio support group and attend its meetings.
  15. Maintain a positive attitude. If you can do something about a problem, do it! If you can't, try not to worry about it. Worrying takes energy and you can't afford to waste your energy.

Not all of these techniques are needed by everybody, of course. Take what applies to you and give them a chance to help you. You may be surprised and you certainly will be pleased at how well they can assist you.

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