Background: Many persons affected with poliomyelitis develop post-polio syndrome (PPS) later in their life. Recently, the effectiveness of Exercise Therapy (ET) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for PPS has been evaluated in a randomized controlled trial, but did not show a decrease in fatigue or improvement in secondary endpoints like Quality of Life and self-perceived activity limitations. The aim of this explorative study was to gain insight in the perceived effects and experiences of the interventions from the perspectives of the patients and therapists. Methods: Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 17 patients and 7 therapists. All participants were involved in the trial. A thematic analysis of the data was performed. Results: Some patients experienced a short term enhanced endurance and a better use of energy during the day. However, in general patients did not experience a long lasting reduction of fatigue from the CBT or ET. Mainly patients of the CBT, but also some patients of the ET described an increase of self-esteem and self-acceptance. As a result, patients were sometimes better able to perform physical activities during the day. In contrast to the CBT, the ET was in general perceived by the patients as an intensive therapy, which was difficult to fit into their daily routine. Therapists of both the CBT and the ET struggled with a low intrinsic motivation of the patients in the study. This made it sometimes difficult for the therapists to follow the protocol. Conclusion: Confirming the negative quantitative study outcome, the qualitative results did not demonstrate lasting effects on fatigue. Patients did, however, experience some benefits on self-esteem and acceptance of the disease. This study showed that it is of great importance to work with feasible interventions; they should fit the patients' needs on a practical (fit into their daily routine) and mental (fit their need for support) level.
- Qualitative study