Post-Polio Syndrome

Post-polio syndrome affects about 50 percent of people who have had polio. Even those who managed to work their way out of braces and spent 20 years or more without the need for assistance can start experiencing extreme fatigue, joint pain and muscle weakness. Our Post-Polio Clinic, part of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan, utilizes the skills of a multidisciplinary group of experts to comprehensively treat people struggling with post-polio syndrome, from physical issues to emotional challenges.

Physical issues connected to post-polio syndrome include:

  • Joint pain
  • Loss of balance
  • Fatigue
  • Weakened muscles
  • Scoliosis

In addition, many people experiencing symptoms also deal with frustration, depression and fear. Because of this, we make sure to treat the emotional as well as the physical issues.

During your first visit to the Post-Polio Clinic we gather as much information as possible to get a clear picture of your health history and current conditions. We look at your range of motion, where you’re experiencing weaknesses, your lifestyle and any other concerns.

A variety of testing is conducted, including a muscle test and a gait evaluation. Once the entire history is collected and all the test results are in, our team creates a complete plan that may include orthotics, physical rehabilitation and referrals to other clinics within the University of Michigan, from Nutrition to the Sleep Center, Pulmonary medicine, Orthopaedic surgery and Neurosurgery.

An Experienced Team with Cutting-Edge Technology

The goal of treatment is to help our patients maintain their lifestyle as much as possible by helping them control their biomechanical issues, such as increasing balance by introducing an orthotic intervention, or using physical therapy to increase strength and stability. However, what’s most important is having the experience with studying and treating this syndrome so the prescribed interventions help the patients, not make their situation worse. For instance, sending a patient to physical therapy to work on a muscle that had been affected by polio can make the muscle more fatigued instead of making it stronger, resulting in a worsened instability problem.

A wide variety of orthotics – equipment used to support or correct moving parts of the body – is available, depending on each patient’s needs, from crutches and walkers to braces and scooters. Some orthotics also help decrease energy consumption while keeping the patient mobile, such as stance control systems – a type of long-leg brace that stabilizes the knee to prevent it from buckling, so while the patient moves the leg, the knee automatically unlocks to flex it during the swing phase.

Our polio research history is rich and we are continuing that tradition today, working on a number of orthotics improvements, such as working with carbon fiber to make braces stronger and lighter. Eligible patients are welcome to participate.

Team members:

Ann Laidlaw, MD
Alicia Baxter, MS, CPO

Schedule an appointment by calling us at 734-973-2400.