Exercise for the Post Polio Patient

Research has shown that exercise for patients with a history of Polio can be beneficial if performed appropriately.  The exercise program must be controlled and appropriate for each individual person.  The design of the program is best achieved if the patient works with a Physical Therapist that is knowledgeable in the effects of Post Polio.

The number one concern is that overuse of the muscles can lead to increased weakness which may become permanent if precautions are not taken. Guidance as to the correct amount of exercise without fatigue is given to the patient by an experienced Physical Therapist.

The first step in establishing an exercise program is to perform a baseline muscle test to determine current levels of strength.  This must be coupled with a listing of all activities of daily living and the level of difficulty in performing each daily task, as well as the level of fatigue reported at the completion of the task.  The level of cardiac conditioning must also be considered in this process. The general condition of the patient is important in being able to complete activities of daily living with greater independence.

Pacing and prioritization of activities must be considered if an exercise program and general conditioning is to be included in the mix of activities.  The purpose and goals of each exercise needs to be specific.  The patient must have a clear understanding of tiredness vs. fatigue vs. exhaustion and must be willing and able to adjust their routines to not become fatigued or exhausted.

When initiating an exercise program, the number of exercises and repetitions of each must start at a minimal level, ie 2 to 3 exercises at no more than three repetitions to determine the effect of the program on the patient.  The program is customized to each individual and can be progressed under guidance as tolerated, following the rule that they are not tired 30 minutes after completing the routine.  Exercise programs should not be performed on days of increased activity levels and not performed when the individual is already tired.

A Post Polio patient can gain benefits from exercise programs that are carefully monitored and planned by the Physical Therapist. These benefits can include improved cardiovascular health, control of blood sugar, decrease in musculoskeletal pain, less fatigue, decreased risk of falling and mood improvement.

Advanced Spine Physical Therapy has a specialized Post Polio program in place. DeeAnn Vink, PT, has many years of experience in the treatment of Post Polio Syndrome and is a Professional Advisor to the Fort Collins and Loveland Post Polio Support Groups. She has been involved in patient training for dynamic brace system for walking that significantly increases independence with an improved quality of life, thereby reducing the risk of falls and maintaining a greater level of independence.