Living With Polio

Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy programs, one of the best forms of exercise for polio survivors due to reduced gravity and buoyancy, may include a combination of the following: range-of-motion, strengthening, or aerobic exercises, stretching, relaxation, and swimming. Before establishing an aquatic therapy program, consult with a medical professional familiar with the late effects of polio to design one based on the individual’s specific strengths and weaknesses due to prior polio. Additionally, aquatic therapy may be inappropriate for individuals with heart disease, etc.

Check the environment of the pool before starting aquatic therapy. The building, changing rooms, and pool should be accessible. The deck must have a non-slip surface, and the water temperature should be no less than 85° F. The recommended temperature is 90-92° F (Leonard, 1995). Some survivors can swim in slightly cooler water when wearing suits with long sleeves and long pants designed to trap a thin layer of water next to the body for warmth.

Polio survivors should begin with a short program of exercise to avoid overuse of the joints and muscles, followed by a gradual increase in the program’s difficulty as stamina increases. Adaptive equipment or specialized instruction in adapted swimming techniques may be helpful in instituting a successful aquatic therapy program (Leonard, 1995).

Excerpt from PHI’s “Handbook on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis for Physicians and Survivors.” © 1999

Pool Exercise: Principles and Guidelines for Polio Survivors
Robbie B. Leonard, MS, PT

Guidelines for Establishing a Water Exercise Program for Post-Polio Participants (2008)
Post-Polio Awareness and Support Society of British Colombia (PPASSBC)

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Alternative Therapies
Physical Therapy