Diagnoses and symptoms


Polio is an infectious disease caused by the polio virus. The polio virus primarily affects the central nervous system (brain and/or spinal cord). Paralysis occurs with 0.1% of all infections.

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Polio is caused by ingesting infected foods. This is how the virus enters the mouth and pharyngeal cavity. From here it spreads to the intestines, where it multiplies and is finally excreted with the feces.

The incubation period (time from the infection to the onset of illness) is around 6 to 10 days. When the infection stops at this stage, it is referred to as asymptomatic or abortive polio. This is the case in around 4% to 8% of all infected individuals.



Non-specific symptoms, which may also occur with other viral infections, are seen in the early stages of the illness: nausea, headaches, fever, and possibly diarrhea. In about 1% of all polio infections, the virus perforates the barrier of the intestinal tract and penetrates into the spinal cord and brain via the bloodstream. This can lead to a non-paralytic form of polio that manifests itself through pain in the head, neck, and back. In about 0.1% of all infections, the nerve cells in the spinal cord and/or brain are attacked by the virus directly, which results in the paralytic form of polio.

The symptoms of polio and long-term consequences of polio (post-polio syndrome) include:

  • A general lack of strength and endurance

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing

  • Intolerance to cold temperatures

  • Pain in the muscles and/or joints

  • Increased muscle weakness/muscle pain

  • Muscle atrophy (amyotrophia)

  • Progressively unstable joints/joint deformities

  • Cramps

  • Muscle convulsions (fasciculations)

  • Changes in the gait pattern and/or increased tendency to fall



Since no specific antiviral therapy is available, treatment is limited to symptomatic measures. These include bed rest with careful nursing, correct positioning, and physical therapy. Aftercare includes appropriate physiotherapy and treatment with orthopedic devices such as orthoses. This can improve mobility after the acute stage of the disease.

Back to everyday activities: three steps to an Ottobock orthosis
  • Here you’ll find an overview of all the orthoses and supports that could potentially help you. Take the list with you to your next doctor’s appointment.
  • Talk to your doctor about which orthotic device is best suited to your symptoms and condition. Your doctor can then write you a prescription for the appropriate orthotic device.
  • Take your prescription to an O&P professional. They'll work with you to get the medical devices you need.
  • Solutions

    Ottobock orthoses and supports for polio/post-polio

    The products below are designed to help improve mobility for individuals who experience mobility impairments as a result of polio or post-polio syndrome. Whether a product is actually suitable for you and you are capable of using the product to its fullest functionality depends on many different factors. Your physical condition, fitness and a detailed medical examination are key. Your doctor or orthopedic technician will also decide which product is best for you.