What Is Post-Polio Syndrome?

Post-polio syndrome women in wheelchair

Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS) is a condition that can affect polio survivors decades after they recover from their initial poliovirus infection. It is characterised by a set of health problems, such as muscle weakness, fatigue (mental and physical), and pain from joint deterioration, which begins about 15 to 40 years after the initial poliovirus infection. The post-polio syndrome affects between 25 and 40 out of every 100 polio survivors.

Post-Polio Syndrome symptoms

Typically, polio survivors start to experience a gradual new weakening of muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection. The most common symptoms include slowly progressive muscle weakness, fatigue (both generalised and muscular), and a gradual decrease in the size of muscles (muscle atrophy). Pain from joint degeneration and increasing skeletal deformities such as scoliosis (curvature of the spine) is common and may precede weakness and muscle atrophy. Some individuals experience only minor symptoms, while others develop visible muscle weakness and atrophy.

Women in wheelchair on mountain road

How is Post-Polio Syndrome diagnosed?

Diagnosing post-polio syndrome relies nearly entirely on clinical information. There are no laboratory tests specific for this condition, and symptoms vary greatly among individuals. Physicians diagnose post-polio syndrome after completing a comprehensive medical history and physical examination and excluding other disorders that could explain the symptoms. Physicians look for the following criteria when diagnosing post-polio syndrome:

  • Prior paralytic poliomyelitis with evidence of motor neuron loss. A period of partial or complete functional recovery after acute paralytic poliomyelitis, followed by an interval (usually 15 years or more) of stable neuromuscular function.
  • Slowly progressive and persistent new muscle weakness or decreased endurance, with or without generalized fatigue, muscle atrophy, or muscle and joint pain.
  • Symptoms that persist for at least a year.
  • Exclusion of other neuromuscular, medical, and skeletal abnormalities as causes of symptoms.

Polio survivors with new symptoms resembling Post-Polio Symptoms should seek treatment from a physician trained in neuromuscular disorders.

How is Post-Polio Syndrome treated?

Currently, no effective pharmaceutical treatments can stop deterioration or reverse the deficits caused by the syndrome itself. However, several controlled studies have demonstrated that non-fatiguing exercises may improve muscle strength and reduce tiredness. Most of the clinical trials in post-polio syndrome have focused on finding safe therapies that could reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

Friedrichs ataxia man in wheelchair on beach in dubai

The prognosis for Post-Polio Syndrome

Post-Polio Syndrome is rarely life-threatening, but the symptoms can significantly interfere with an individual’s ability to function independently. Respiratory muscle weakness, for instance, can result in trouble with proper breathing, affecting daytime functions and sleep. Weakness in swallowing muscles can result in the aspiration of food and liquids into the lungs and lead to pneumonia. Therefore, general health must be monitored closely.

Mobility for those with Post-Polio Syndrome

Many with Post-Polio Syndrome experience the progressive loss of the ability to walk and position themselves, necessitating the use of a specialised power wheelchair. Quantum Rehab, the global leader in individualised powerchairs, emphasises mobility technologies specific to the needs of those with post-polio syndrome. Quantum powerchairs incorporate power-adjustable seating for user repositioning and comfort, speciality drive controls, including those requiring minimal hand strength, and a highly adaptable design to meet an individual’s current and future needs. Quantum powerchairs feature the latest advanced technologies to increase the independence of those with post-polio syndrome.

iLevel seat elevation technology allows users to operate the powerchair seated or standing. Bluetooth is also integrated into Quantum’s Q-Logic 3 electronics, so those with muscular dystrophy can operate much of their environment with the powerchair drive control itself. For those with post-polio syndrome, Quantum powerchairs are designed to provide optimal medical comfort and maximum independence.

ICON Rehab Powerchair

ICON Rehab Powerchair UK

Quantum Q6 Edge 2 Powerchair

Quantum Q6 Edge 2 Powerchair profile


The Quantum Edge 3 with industry-first 4.5 mph at iLevel offers the most advanced powerchair experience. Q6 Powerchair series, which includes the Edge 3 and Q6 Edge 2 powerchairs, provide highly adjustable mid-wheel drive power bases. The Q6 Edge 2 all accept our optional iLevel technology, which offers up to 12 inches of lift at 4.5 mph. The 4Front is a quiet, more responsive front-wheel drive powerchair that features automotive-grade suspension with unprecedented comfort and rides quality.

Related Reading: What Is Spina Bifida?

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