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27/May/2018

Support is available from people just like you

There’s nothing like talking to someone who knows what it’s like to live with your health condition.

They struggle with the same things you do. They’ve gone through similar experiences, upheavals and successes. They’ve felt similar emotions and thought similar thoughts.

They really understand, in a way that’s almost impossible for people who aren’t in the same boat to understand.

This is peer support. And it can be so helpful and valuable.

Meeting with others like yourself, you can share information, provide support, get advice, and know that you’re not alone.

Support groups can be found all over the place. Some meet face-to-face, while others connect via social media and websites.

We can help you find one near you.

Contact us today on 1800 263 265 for group details.

‘I could walk a mile in your shoes, but I already know they’re just as uncomfortable as mine. Let’s walk next to each other instead…’ – Lynda Meyers


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27/May/2018

A book by people like you

Chronic pain is a common and complex problem that affects 1 in 5 Australians.

It’s exhausting, a bit tricky and hard to know where to start.

Fortunately, with our book Managing your pain: An A-Z guide you can start anywhere!

Medications, sleep, laughter, fatigue, breathing. Think of it as a ‘choose your own adventure’ to getting on top of your pain.

The book emphasises practical strategies tried and tested by people like you – consumers living with musculoskeletal conditions. There are also a bunch of quotes and useful insights to keep it real.

You might also like…

We also have a helpful kids pain book called The worst pain in the world. It’s beautifully illustrated and loaded with practical advice for children living with pain (not just those with arthritis). It also gives kids who don’t live with pain an understanding of what their friends or family are going through. Copies can also be ordered through the our online shop.


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27/May/2018

Gardening and arthritis

Gardening’s a wonderful way to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. It can also be extremely relaxing, and it’s often a good workout.

But if your condition sometimes impacts on your ability to garden, there are many things you can do so that you can still get into your garden and enjoy yourself.

  • Pace yourself – don’t try to do too much in one go. And take regular breaks. This’s a good opportunity to rest – but also to sit back and admire your work, contemplate what to do next, and imagine future gardening projects.
  • Contain it – use pots and other containers for small, manageable gardens. You can use regular garden pots or containers, or be creative and use other containers you have lying around – e.g. old wheelbarrows, teapots, colanders, tyres, boots. Check out Pinterest for some great ideas.
  • Create raised garden beds – this will take a bit more planning and work, but by raising your garden beds you can access them with less bending or kneeling. Perfect if you have a sore back, hips or knees.
  • Use thick handled tools – there are a wide range of thicker handled garden tools that are great if you have painful hands or difficulty gripping. You can also buy thick rubber or foam tubing from the hardware store, cut it to length and fit it over the handles of your existing gardening tools.
  • Use cushioned knee supports – knees pads, kneeling mats, or even gardening stools can help cushion and protect your knees and help you get up and down off the ground.
  • Get some help – whether it’s family, friends, or a local handyman or gardener, get some help if you have some big jobs that need doing – e.g. creating raised garden beds, pruning trees, mowing lawns. You don’t have to do everything yourself.
  • Keep hydrated – make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Gardening can be hot, strenuous work, so don’t let yourself become dehydrated. Keep a water bottle close by.
  • Talk with an OT – an occupational therapist can help you find ways to modify your activities to reduce joint pain and fatigue and save energy. They can also give you tips and ideas about different aids and equipment available.

These are just a few things you can do to stay active in the garden, so that you can get out in the fresh air and enjoy getting your hands dirty. If you love to garden, and have suggestions or tips for others, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.


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27/May/2018

Do you get enough calcium and vitamin D? Along with regular exercise, they’re important for bone health.

Calcium

Almost every cell in your body uses calcium in some way.

Most of the calcium is stored in your bones. They act as your calcium bank. You need to make regular ‘deposits’ to cover the ‘withdrawals’. The rest is found in your blood and body fluids.

If you don’t have enough calcium in your diet to maintain adequate levels in the blood, then your body withdraws calcium from your bones. If calcium is constantly taken from your bones, they’ll become weaker over time.

For adults the amount of calcium required each day is between 1000 – 1300mg – the exact amount depends on your age and gender.

Calcium can be found in lots of foods – including dairy food, oranges, sardines and salmon, almonds, tofu, baked beans, green leafy vegetables.

Calcium is listed on the nutrition panel of packaged foods – so check to see how much is in the foods you buy.

If you can’t get enough calcium in your diet, talk with your doctor about whether a calcium supplement may be necessary.

Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones for many reasons. It helps increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorous from the small intestine, helps regulate the amount of calcium in your blood and helps strengthen your skeleton. It can also assist with muscle function and reduce your risk of falls.

The main source of vitamin D is sunlight so you need to expose your hands, face and arms to the sun every day. The amount of time you need to do this depends on where you live, the time of the year and the complexion of your skin. Osteoporosis Australia has developed a chart to help you work this out.

In Australia we have high levels of skin cancer, so you also need to make sure you expose your skin to the sun safely. SunSmart has developed an app which will help work out when it’s safe.

Vitamin D can also be found in small quantities in foods such as: fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel), liver, eggs and fortified foods such as low fat milks and margarine, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get enough vitamin D through your diet alone.

If you aren’t able to expose your skin to the sun regularly (e.g. you’re a shift worker, you have a condition that makes your skin sensitive to sunlight), you may be deficient in vitamin D. It’s important to discuss this with your doctor. Vitamin D supplements may be needed.

Take action for the health of your bones and find out more about calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis.

Contact our MSK Help Line on 1800 263 265 and speak with a nurse or our trained volunteers for information.


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27/May/2018

Essential for life

Did you know that more than half of your body is made up of water?

Water lubricates and cushions your joints, aids digestion, prevents constipation, keeps your temperature normal and helps maintain your blood pressure.

We lose water constantly when we breathe, sweat and go to the toilet, so you need to replace this water. If you don’t, your body can’t work as well as it should. You’ll feel thirsty, and you may experience symptoms like dizziness or light-headedness, tiredness or get a headache.

The amount of water you need each day varies from person to person and from day to day. There’s no ‘one size fits all’.

Things like your age, gender, health and environment will affect how much water you’ll need. You’ll notice that you drink more in warmer weather, and when you’re physically active, compared to the amount you drink when you’re sitting at home on a winter’s night.

Some people find it difficult to drink enough. If that’s you, here are some suggestions to help you get enough water every day:

  • buy a good quality water bottle and keep it with you at work, in the car, when you’re exercising. Many parks and public places have water refill stations so you can fill your water bottle up when you need to.
  • count your other drinks (e.g. fruit juice, milk, herbal tea) and some of your foods (e.g. soups and watery foods like celery and melons) as they also add to your daily water intake.
  • create triggers – e.g. have a glass of water after you use the toilet, or when you walk through the kitchen
  • jazz it up by adding lemon, ginger or some other flavouring to your water.
  • set reminders on your phone or computer.
  • have a glass of water each time you eat. If you’re out for a meal, ask for water for your table.
  • track your water intake on your fitness tracker or health app.
  • alcohol and drinks containing caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, cola) are diuretics, which means they make you go to the toilet more often and lose water through urine, so try to consume these in moderation.
  • if you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough water, or you’re not sure how much water is right for you, talk with your doctor.

Make drinking enough water an important part of your daily routine. Once you get in the habit, you’ll find it’s something you do automatically, and you’ll feel great!


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26/May/2018

Not just a fashion statement from the 70s!

From time-to-time many of us experience a flare, when symptoms like pain, inflammation and fatigue are worse, or more intense. This is a flare.

Flares are temporary, but can be frustrating and painful while they last. We don’t always know why they happen – and sometimes they seem to come out of the blue.

So it’s important that you have a plan for how you manage a flare when it happens.

Your flare plan

  • Write down what you were doing before the flare as this can help you identify potential triggers.
  • Talk with your doctor about what you should do when you have a flare. You may need to adjust your medications, or alter the dosage during a flare.
  • Have a plan in place for how you will deal with your commitments – family, work, social activities – when you’re in the middle of a flare. Can you alter your work hours, work from home, get your family to help out?
  • Prioritise your tasks and activities. This can reduce the risk of overdoing things.
  • Pace yourself. If the flare is the result of overdoing things, think about getting people to help you, or spread the activity over a greater period of time, e.g. if you want to clean your house, get the family involved and give each person a room or zone that they’re responsible for; or spread the job over a few weekends and assign yourself a room, a zone or a period of time to clean that’s achievable for you. When you’ve cleaned that area, or reached that time limit, stop. You can go back to it later.
  • Manage your stress, it can increase your pain levels. If you feel yourself becoming stressed, try relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and visualisation, and avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes.
  • Pull out all of your pain management strategies. Use heat or cold packs, get a massage, go for a walk, distract yourself…use all the things you know help you manage your pain.
  • Rest when your body needs it – but not for too long. Going to bed and not being active during a flare can make your pain and fatigue worse. Continue to exercise, but at a lesser intensity than usual. Listen to your body.
  • Use aids and other gadgets when your joints are painful and swollen. This will help protect your joints, and reduce some of the pain you feel when doing everyday tasks.

Some of the suggestions listed here are easy, however others involve a bit of thought, as well as input from others. But taking the time to work out a plan that works for you will help you manage your flares better, and with less disruption to your life.

Get advice from your doctor, and others in your healthcare team. Contact our MSK Help Line on 1800 263 265 and speak with a nurse or one of our trained volunteers.


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26/May/2018

And that’s just what they’ll do

Walking is a great way to exercise. It costs nothing, it’s suitable for most people, and it gets you out and about.

I love walking. I take a quick walk around the block during the day if I can manage it, but I always make sure I get out after I get home from work. I find it’s a fantastic way to relax after a long day at work.

For me the important thing is to get changed and put my walking shoes on as soon as I get home. If I sit down, or get distracted by others, the opportunity disappears.

I grab my MP3 player, put on a podcast or music, and head out. The fresh air, the exercise, and listening to something interesting is a great mood booster.

On the weekend I like to explore new areas, so I hop in the car, pick up a friend, and we walk in a park, the bush, in the CBD, at the beach. This keeps my walks interesting, and I also have the benefit of discovering new places.

If you don’t exercise much, walking might be a good way for you to build up your activity levels – though be sure to talk with your doctor first to get the all-clear. Then start slow.

Try walking 30 minutes a day on most days of the week and you’ll really notice the health benefits. It can help you lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight, it can lift your mood, help you get a good night’s sleep, improve your bone and joint health and increase heart and lung fitness.

If you can’t walk 30 minutes at a time, break the walking up over your day. Three 10 minute walks, six 5 minute walks…it all adds up.

Walking tips

  • Wear comfortable, appropriate clothing and shoes.
  • Warm up and cool down to prevent injuries or pain.
  • Make it social – walk with a friend, your family, kids, the dog.
  • Listen to music, audio books, podcasts.
  • Make it a part of your regular routine – go at the same time each day – e.g. after/before work, after lunch.
  • Explore new places to walk.
  • Take a water bottle – it can be thirsty work!
  • Track your walking with a pedometer or fitness activity tracker.
  • Increase the distance of your walks and intensity of your walks over time.
  • Take your walk inside if it’s raining or a hot day – walk in a shopping centre, around the office, around your house.
  • Join a walking or bushwalking group.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your walking shoes and get out there!


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26/May/2018

Make your life easier with aids, equipment and other gadgets

Do you find that at times you struggle with everyday tasks?

When you have a musculoskeletal condition, simple things like pulling on your shoes, opening jars, combing your hair or sitting for long periods can sometimes become difficult and painful.

The good news is there are a variety of aids, gadgets and other equipment available to help you manage. They can also help reduce stress on your muscles and joints, save energy, prevent fatigue and basically make your life easier.

There are gadgets that can help you with everything from cooking, cleaning, getting dressed, driving, gardening, using technology and working.

Some things – e.g. kitchen utensils or gardening tools with thick handles that are easier to hold– can be found in many of the stores we already shop at.

Other items need to be bought from specialty stores or pharmacies. Or you may be able to modify objects that you already own – e.g. if you have sore hands, foam tubing can be used to create an easier grip on your pens.

Because there are so many options, it’s helpful to speak with an occupational therapist (OT) to get specific information and advice.

OTs work in the public and private sectors. You can access them through public and private hospitals, community health centres, independent living centres and private practice.

As well as helping you with aids and equipment, OTs can help you learn better ways to do everyday activities to help you:

  • protect your joints
  • reduce the pain caused by doing certain activities
  • save energy.

They can also provide advice about pacing your day and activities so you can achieve a balance between activity and rest.

The important thing to keep in mind is that there are many aids and gadgets available that can make your life easier. You don’t have to struggle.

Talk with an OT today.

You can also contact our MSK Help Line on 1800 263 265 and speak with a nurse or trained volunteer for information about living well with a musculoskeletal condition. We’re here to help!


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26/May/2018


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26/May/2018

Tips for travelling well

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag.

Travelling can be so exciting, but if you’ve got a chronic condition, it can also cause anxiety and stress.

Here are some tips and tricks I find help me manage my condition so I get the most out of my trip and have the best time. I’m sure they’ll help you too.

Planning is vital
Take the time to plan your trip carefully. Being proactive before you go away gives you the opportunity to plan around your condition, rather than have your condition disrupt your trip. I always make sure I:

  • give myself plenty of time to pack
  • get some rest before I leave so I have plenty of energy
  • make my itinerary realistic – and don’t try to cram too much into it (this is a hard one, because I want to see and experience everything!)

Packing
This can be one of the hardest parts of travelling – what to take, what to leave at home – so if in doubt, leave it out! Lifting heavy bags on and off trains, buses and through airports increases your risk of injury and fatigue. When you travel you also end up carting your luggage around more than you may realise. So:

  • pack light –take only what you need
  • use lightweight luggage if you have it (or can borrow it)
  • don’t forget to pack the things that help make life more comfortable e.g. your lumbar pillow, orthotics, splints
  • keep your meds in separate pieces of luggage to ensure you don’t lose it all if your luggage is lost or stolen.

Medical preparation
Give yourself plenty of time to get prepared for your trip – including medical appointments and vaccinations, and:

  • ensure regular doctor visits, blood tests etc are done before you leave
  • talk with your doctor about vaccinations – do you need any? If so, which ones? Are they ones you’re able to have? Some vaccines need to be avoided if you’ve got an autoimmune condition, or if you’re taking certain medications
  • check the Smart Traveller website to see if your medications are legal where you’re going
  • store your biological meds properly – your rheumatologist or the pharmaceutical company can advise you about this.

Travel insurance
Know exactly what you’re covered for. Shop around and find insurance that’s best suits your needs.

Coming home
Rest up. After your trip, give yourself a day or so to unpack and rest before leaping back into your daily schedule.

Talk the ears off your family, friends, doctor and work colleagues about your trip and the sights, smells and experiences you enjoyed. Before you know it you’ll be dreaming about, and planning, your next adventure.

And don’t forget to use our resource Managing your pain: An A-Z guide. It’ll give you lots of practical information about ways you can manage your pain – many of which you can do wherever you are – at home, on a plane, in another country.




Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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