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Post-Polio Health (ISSN 1066-5331)

Vol. 8, No. 2, Spring 1992


Results of Australian Questionnaire

A post-polio support group was established in the state of New South Wales in 1988. As one of its first activities the group decided to survey Australian polio survivors (estimated to number 40,000) to
discover whether they were experiencing similar symptoms to those reported by North American researchers. Over 300 people completed a 12-page questionnaire. The symptoms reported, the relative frequency of symptoms, the fiat symptoms noticed, and the time between the initial attack of polio and the onset on symptoms were remarkably similar to American findings. Severity of initial attack, but not age at that time, was found to be associated with the
occurrence of symptoms.

Of the people experiencing late effects, 90% were finding it more difficult to carry out their everyday activities. Only 20% had initially had their problem diagnosed by a health professional as being related to polio although most had consulted a doctor the year they first observed symptoms. The majority of people attributed their symptoms to polio after they, or a friend, read or heard a media release.

Over 70% reported considerable emotional distress when they first realized what was wrong and almost half said that they still felt depressed.

Over three quarters of people experiencing late effects had made changes in their life styles. The changes most frequently described were walking less, reducing social activities, giving up or reducing
physical recreational activities, doing less housework, employing household help, and adopting mechanical aids. Employment was also affected: 16% had retired early. Of those currently employed 42% had changed or modified their employment e.g. moved to part time work, changed work routines.

The typical post-polio person had consulted practitioners from four health professions. Satisfaction with treatment provided by physiotherapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists and podiatrists was relatively high while least satisfaction was expressed toward medical practitioners who were prone to discount the reality of patients' symptoms.

It is interesting that chiropractic, which has been virtually ignored in the literature as a potential treatment, was described by many as providing pain relief and improving function.

Over half of people with late effects described a treatment that had provided them with some relief and 30% described a treatment that had been useless or exacerbated their symptoms. Treatments that received almost no negative evaluations were massage, hydrotherapy, swimming, rest, hot baths, analgesics, and special shoes. Exercise received few positive ratings.

When asked what advice they would give to someone who developed post-polio symptoms the most frequent response was to get to know other people with post-polio problems followed by advice to rest more and to find a helpful doctor.

The findings from the survey have been published in a range of Australian health journals with the air of making professionals more aware of the needs of their post-polio clients.

The research was conducted by Associate Professor Mary Westbrook, PhD, Department of Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Health Services, The University of Sydney, PO Box 170, Lidcombe, NSW, 2141, Australia. A detailed account of the findings of the research, "A survey of post polio sequelae: manifestations, effects on people's lives and responses to treatment," was published in the Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, Vol. 37, 1991, pp. 89-102.


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