Living With Polio

Fell: Cracked Vertebra

Post-Polio Health, Volume 31, Number 4, Fall 2015

Question: I am 82 years old and have PPS. Two years ago I fell backward down the stairs and broke my C2 and C3 vertebrae. I still can’t turn my neck enough to drive myself. I get worn out doing nothing, and I am tired all the time. I had two chair lifts installed, which does help, and I can walk with a walker, so I am able to get to church. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Response from Dr. Fred Maynard: I am glad that you are still on your feet with a walker at age 82 after neck fractures. The only way to regain further strength and endurance for activity is through exercise. It would be best to do this under the professional guidance and supervision of a physical therapist, probably three times a week. You will need a physician referral and obviously their permission to exercise.

Any progress is always slow in polio survivors, and especially will be at age 82. You likely were forced to be less active for several months after the fractures which led to disuse atrophy of your post-polio muscles and deconditioning of your cardiopulmonary systems, both of which happen more quickly and to a greater degree in polio survivors. Try to muster up your determination and perseverance in order to stick with a vigorous (for you) program for at least three months minimally before thinking your activity capacity is the best it can be.

Continuing a therapeutic strengthening and endurance training program even longer may be appropriate and can be done through many community-based facilities such as senior centers, YMCA’s, health and fitness clubs, etc. The challenges are accessibility, affordability and staff and equipment appropriate for senior citizens with chronic limitations (post-polio weakness and fused neck and possibly others). I hope these thoughts are helpful.

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