Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Post-polio Syndrome

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Post-polio Syndrome


Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a condition that affects polio survivors. It can lead to muscle weakness and joint pain. It can happen 10 to 40 years after having polio.


The exact cause of PPS is not known. It may be due to nerve and muscle damage from the original polio infection.

Risk Factors

PPS is more common in women. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Previous polio
  • Severe original polio
  • Older age during infection


Symptoms of PPS may be:

  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle pain, twitches, or cramps
  • Problems swallowing or breathing
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Voice changes
  • Problems with focus
  • Swelling of the legs


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. PPS can be hard to diagnose.

Tests are used to rule out other health problems. They may include:

  • Electromyography—measures how well nerves and muscles work together
  • Nerve conduction velocity—to check for nerve injury
  • MRI scan—to look at body structures
  • Muscle biopsy—to remove a sample of muscle for testing


The goal is ease symptoms and help the person function better.

Options may be:

  • Assistive devices
  • Physical therapy to help with movement
  • Occupational therapy to help with daily tasks
  • Speech therapy
  • Healthy habits, such as exercise and reaching a healthy weight
  • Medicines to ease muscle spasms, pain, or depression
  • Surgery to correct problems that make it hard to function


There are no current guidelines to prevent PPS.





  • Lo JK, Robinson LR. Postpolio syndrome and the late effects of poliomyelitis. Part 1. pathogenesis, biomechanical considerations, diagnosis, and investigations. Muscle Nerve. 2018;58(6):751-759.
  • Postpolio syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/postpolio-syndrome.
  • Post-polio syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/post-polio-syndrome-fact-sheet.
  • What is post-polio syndrome? Post-Polio Health International website. Available at: https://post-polio.org/education/what-is-post-polio-syndrome.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.