Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Because the signs and symptoms often vary, there's no one specific treatment for post-polio syndrome. The goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms and help make you as comfortable and independent as possible:
- Energy conservation. This involves pacing your physical activity and combining it with frequent rest periods to reduce fatigue. Assistive devices, such as a cane, walker, wheelchair or motor scooter, also can help you conserve energy. A therapist can even show you ways to breathe that help conserve energy.
- Physical therapy. Your doctor or therapist may prescribe exercises for you that strengthen your muscles without you experiencing muscle fatigue. These usually include less strenuous activities, such as swimming or water aerobics, that you perform every other day at a relaxed pace. Exercising to maintain fitness is important, but be cautious in your exercise routine and daily activities. Avoid overusing your muscles and joints and attempting to exercise beyond the point of pain or fatigue. Otherwise, you may need significant rest to regain your strength.
- Occupational therapy. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can help you modify your home environment so that it's safe and convenient for you. This may include installation of grab bars in the shower or a raised toilet seat. Your therapist may also help you rearrange furniture or rethink certain household or work-related tasks, decreasing the number of steps you must take and increasing your efficiency.
- Speech therapy. A speech therapist can show you ways to compensate for swallowing difficulties.
- Sleep apnea treatment. Treatment for sleep apnea, which is common among people with post-polio syndrome, may involve changing your sleeping patterns, such as avoiding sleeping on your back, or using a device that helps open up a blocked airway.
- Medications. Pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), may ease muscle and joint pain. Numerous drugs — including pyridostigmine (Mestinon, Regonol), amantadine, modafinil (Provigil), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and alpha-2 recombinant interferon — have been studied as treatments for post-polio syndrome, but no clear benefit has been found for any of them.
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- Simionescu L, et al. Post-polio syndrome. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Dec. 16, 2010.
- Post-polio syndrome — polio's legacy. Clinical Medicine. 2010;10:213.
- Post-polio syndrome fact sheet, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/post_polio/detail_post_polio.htm. Accessed Jan. 15, 2011.
- Tiffreau V, et al. Post-polio syndrome and rehabilitation. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. 2010;53:42.