This column originally appeared in the Winter, 2000 issue of TRIUMPH.
Are post polio syndrome and inflammation related? I have some areas of inflammation in my foot, my hip, and my shoulder. I have been given shots but the pain keeps coming back. Right now I am taking some NSAIDís but they are not helping very much. What else can I do?
Signed, Uncomfortable on the Cape.
Post-Polio Syndrome does not cause inflammation directly. However, overcoming the paralysis caused by polio often requires survivors to subject their joints and muscles to unusual stresses. Weak muscles can result in joints that are not aligned properly. Performing daily activities with muscles and joints in poor alignment places additional stress on both. Also, if there are new problems, such as a recent decrease in strength, other parts of the body may need to work harder to compensate. All of these situations can cause inflammation. Inflammation can be described as the bodyís response to injury. Injury can be sudden, like twisting an ankle, or it can occur gradually over time, as described above. During an inflammatory response, the body tries to repair and heal the injured tissue. However, if injury continues to occur, the inflammation can become chronic.
There are several ways to treat inflammation. Medications such as NSAIDís (NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are often recommended. Some NSAIDís are available over-the-counter and some require prescriptions. Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (e.g. Naprosyn, Alleve) are commonly used NSAIDís. The shots you received most likely contained cortisone, another drug used to combat inflammation. Physical therapists use a variety of tools such as ice and ultrasound to treat inflammation as well. Sometimes, treating the inflammation alone will help the pain. However, if the pain keeps coming back, it can mean the cause of the inflammation has not gone away or the source of injury has not been addressed. I recommend you seek the help of a doctor and/or physical therapist who is familiar with orthopedic problems (and, ideally, with polio); someone who is willing to work closely with you to investigate the underlying cause of your inflammation. I hope you are feeling more comfortable soon!