Living With Polio

Improve Muscle Function?

Post-Polio Health, Volume 30, Number 1, Winter 2014
Ask Dr. Maynard
Frederick M. Maynard, MD

Question: I am a 61-year-old female who has recently been diagnosed with post-polio syndrome. I am looking for the latest research on improving muscle function in the affected limb. Are there new medicines that can improve muscle functioning?

Answer: Research studies have demonstrated that muscle strength and endurance can be improved among polio survivors, even those diagnosed with PPS, through individually designed exercise programs that are monitored and advanced slowly over three to six months. The major challenge is to find a personally optimal intensity of resistance and of duration to achieve desired results (a goal) without any negative consequences (side effects such as pain or activity-limiting fatigue).

There are no medicines that research has clearly shown to be effective for specifically improving muscle functioning of post-polio survivors. Clinical experience suggests that medicines to control pain that interfere with activity or exercise may help restore or improve lost muscle function. Taking medicines to control or cure other general health problems can also be important for permitting improvements in muscle function by promoting participation in exercise and/or activity. However, all medicines must be monitored for possible negative side effects.

It is also important to remember that a healthy diet with sufficient protein, optimal fat and calories and generous vitamins and minerals is critical for optimal muscle functioning. Limiting high stress, having optimal sleep and achieving good emotional health are also all important for obtaining and maintaining limb muscle function through optimal activity and exercise.

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