Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disease that reached epidemic proportions during the first half of the 20th century. It is a disease that attacks the nervous system. Children seemed to be particularly vulnerable to catching the polio virus. When stricken, many patients experienced a whole host of frightening and often life-threatening symptoms. Stiffness, pain, and severe headaches were common. Paralysis and difficulty breathing sent many to hospital to endure lengthy treatments.
These treatments often involved the use of bracing, iron lungs, and surgery. Many patients endured neglect and harsh treatment from communities and medical facilities frightened by the epidemic. By 1952, a record 57,628 cases of polio were reported. Many died during the epidemic. For those who survived, recovery often took a minimum of two years.
Although many survivors regained muscle strength and control after the initial onset of the disease, some 50 odd years later, they now have to contend with a new set of symptoms.
Post-polio syndrome, or PPS, is a condition that, until recently, baffled the medical community. Patients arrived at their doctors’ offices complaining of stiff and sluggish muscles, breathing difficulties, and an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Unable to trace the symptoms to other disease, eventually a link was made to the polio virus. Much like the original condition, treatment of PPS remains a challenge for doctors and patients alike.
Recently, researchers from the Department of Rehabilitation, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, conducted a review to find out the effects of any treatment for PPS compared to placebo, usual care or no treatment. Randomized trials that used pharmacological or non-pharmacological treatment for people with PPS were included.
Nine pharmacological and three non-pharmacological studies were found. Pharmacological studies showed mild to no benefits when it came to treating PPS symptoms, with the potential for side effects. Treatments in the non-pharmacological studies included muscle strengthening, rehabilitation in a warm climate (i.e. a temperature near 25°C, dry and sunny), a cold climate (i.e. a temperature of 0°C, rainy or snowy), and static magnetic fields.
The research team found that there was evidence that static magnetic fields are beneficial for improving muscle strength and pain, respectively. There was also some evidence that muscle strengthening exercises may be beneficial.
PLUS: Another Remedy for PPS
For those who had the polio virus as children, static magnets may be one alternative cure for reoccurring symptoms. Get your doctor’s advice if you think you may be suffering from PPS.