Post-Polio Syndrome

What research is being done?

Scientists are working on a variety of investigations that may one day help individuals with PPS.  Some basic researchers are studying the behavior of motor neurons many years after a polio attack.  Others are looking at the mechanisms of fatigue and are trying to discover the roles played by the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, neuromuscular junction (the site where a nerve cell meets the muscle cell it helps activate), and muscles.  

Determining if there is an immunological link in PPS is also an area of intense interest.  Researchers who discovered inflammation around motor neurons or muscles are trying to find out what causes this immunological response.

Information from the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Polio and Post-Polio Syndrome


Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a condition that affects polio survivors many years after recovery from an initial attack of the poliomyelitis virus. PPS is characterized by a further weakening of muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection. PPS is not contagious. The most common symptoms include:

  • slowly progressive muscle weakness
  • fatigue (both general and muscular)
  • decrease in muscle size (muscular atrophy)
  • loss of muscle function
  • pain from joint deterioration and increasing skeletal deformities such as curvature of the spine (scoliosis)

Some individuals experience only minor symptoms, while others develop more visible muscle weakness and atrophy.  PPS is rarely life-threatening but the symptoms can interfere significantly with the individual's capacity to function independently.  


There are currently no effective treatments that can stop deterioration or reverse the deficits caused by the syndrome itself, but there are recommended management strategies.  Individuals with PPS should seek medical advice from a physician experienced in treating neuromuscular disorders.  

Treatments for symptoms include:

  • non-fatiguing exercises (those that do not cause pain or fatigue lasting more than 10 minutes) may improve muscle strength and reduce tiredness.  Exercise should be considered under the supervision of an experienced health professional. 
  • cardiopulmonary endurance training
  • mobility aids and ventilation equipment
  • counseling to help individuals and families adjust to the late effects of poliomyelitis

Physicians recommend that polio survivors get a good night’s sleep, maintain a well-balanced diet, avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking and overeating, and follow a prescribed exercise program.  Lifestyle changes, such as weight control, the use of assistive devices, and taking certain anti-inflammatory medications, may help with some of the symptoms of PPS.


PPS is a very slowly progressing condition marked by long periods of stability.  The severity of PPS depends on the degree of the residual weakness and disability an individual has after the original polio attack. People who had only minimal symptoms from the original attack and subsequently develop PPS will most likely experience only mild PPS symptoms. People originally hit hard by the polio virus, who were left with severe residual weakness, may develop a more severe case of PPS with a greater loss of muscle function, difficulty in swallowing, and more periods of fatigue.