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Post-Polio Health (ISSN 1066-5331)

Vol. 16, No. 3, Summer 2000

Strategies for Management
of Arms and Shoulders

Mary Ellen Brown, PT, Danville, California,
and Nancy L. Caverly, OT, Mexico, Missouri

Posture & Alignment

Fine Motor/Hand Tasks

Lifestyle/Stress Management
Energy Conservation for Shoulders
Choosing Assistive Devices (Assistive Technology)

If you are beginning to need assistive devices for walking, think very carefully about which device you choose and seek the advice of an occupational therapist or physical therapist. The use of canes, crutches, walkers and manual wheelchairs may help your legs but will put more demands on your upper extremities. They already have a full-time job.

Technology Challenges

If you have joined the folks in the fast lane and are using a computer, the demands on your upper extremities have multiplied many times. The "normal" population is suffering at epidemic proportions from repetitive strain injury (RSI) from many, many hours at the computer. Over 62% of all workplace injuries are now from upper extremity repetitive strain injuries related to computer work. If the "normal" population is having this much trouble with their arms, you, as a polio survivor, need to take your time at the computer very seriously. The computer can do so much for you, but it is tempting to overuse this great technology. DON'T SACRIFICE YOUR ARMS in the process.

A Final Reminder

If you develop any pain, increased weakness, and/or excessive fatigue in the upper extremities, and reasonable amounts of accommodation and rest do not decrease the symptoms, get a medical evaluation and begin treatment as soon as possible. Many upper extremity problems can be eliminated with proper management, and the sooner the symptoms are addressed, the less risk you face of permanent decrease in upper extremity function. If your doctor does not suggest treatment, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy, INSIST ON IT. "Normal" people rarely hesitate to seek medical assistance when pain or weakness occurs in their arms and shoulders. Neither should you, who has much more to lose – your independence.


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