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28/Jan/2021

What do Queen Victoria, Jared Leto, Benjamin Franklin, Harry Kewell, Sir Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Sir Alec Guinness and Jim Belushi have in common?

They all lived (or live) with gout.

Most people don’t realise that gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in the world. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, there are 41 million adults with gout worldwide; that’s more than twice the number of people living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Gout is characterised by repeated attacks of extreme joint pain, swelling and redness. The most commonly affected joint is the big toe, but gout can affect your feet, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.

Historical stereotypes

Gout has always gotten a bad rap. It’s long been associated with kings, lavish living and overindulgence of food and alcohol.

We now know this isn’t the case. It’s a complex, very painful condition that affects many Australians, who deal with stigma based on an out-of-date stereotype.

Women get gout too, as do people who don’t drink or eat meat. Gout is more complex than the historical image. Which is why some rheumatologists have suggested gout be renamed ‘urate crystal arthritis’ to lose the stigma attached to ‘gout’.

So what does cause gout?

Gout occurs when uric acid, a normal waste product, builds up in the bloodstream and forms urate crystals in a joint.

Our body makes uric acid when it breaks down purines, a substance found in our cells and in food.

Uric acid normally dissolves in your blood, is processed by your kidneys and leaves your body in urine.

If your body makes too much uric acid, or your kidneys can’t clear enough of it out, it builds up in your blood. This is called hyperuricaemia.

Having hyperuricaemia doesn’t mean you’ll develop gout. In fact most people with hyperuricaemia don’t go on to develop gout. Because of this it’s thought that other factors such as your genes may be involved.

Find out more about gout, including what you can do in terms of your diet and weight.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.


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28/Jan/2021

We often associate gout with gluttony and enjoying too much alcohol. Historical images of gout include overweight, ruddy faced, aristocratic men or royalty such as Henry VIII.

But this isn’t the case and is too simplistic a view of a complex condition.

To find out more about gout, what causes it and how it’s treated, check out our gout info.

So what causes a gout attack?

If you have gout, you know that an attack happens suddenly, often overnight, and you’ll wake up in a lot of pain.

And it’s more likely to occur if you:

  • are male
  • have a family history of gout
  • are overweight
  • have high levels of uric acid in your blood
  • drink too much alcohol (especially beer)
  • eat a purine-rich diet (including foods such as red meat, offal, shellfish, fructose, beer)
  • use diuretics
  • become dehydrated
  • crash diet or fast.

Managing your weight

While you can’t control some of the risk factors to prevent a gout attack, you can control your weight. If you’re overweight, losing weight gradually and carefully can reduce your risk. However don’t go on a crash diet, skip meals or fast as this can also increase your risk of an attack.

If you need to lose weight, talking with your doctor and/or a dietitian is a really good idea to get the information and support you need to lose weight in a healthy way.

Other dietary changes

It’s believed that lowering uric acid levels through small changes in your diet may help reduce the chance of future gout attacks. These changes include:

  • restricting or avoiding alcohol
  • avoiding binge drinking
  • eating a healthy, well balanced, colourful diet. Research suggests that the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet may be helpful. Read our blog on anti-inflammatory diets for more info.
  • drinking plenty of water
  • avoiding fasting or crash dieting
  • making sure you don’t overeat on a regular basis.

Your doctor or dietitian can help guide you in making healthy changes to your diet.

Keep taking your medication

It’s important to note that dietary changes alone aren’t enough to address the underlying cause of gout – too much uric acid in your blood. For many years there’s been a misconception that simply changing your diet will help keep your gout under control.

However the research clearly shows that medication is needed for most people with gout to manage it effectively. So if you decide to make some dietary changes, discuss this with your doctor and continue to take any medication you’ve been prescribed to manage your gout.

Final word

Gout is a painful, complex condition that affects many Australians. But there are things you can do to take control, including managing your weight, making changes to the things you eat and drink and taking your medication.

Contact our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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28/Jan/2021

We’re well and truly into summer now, and it’s hot all over the country. If you’re like me, you’re either sprawled on the couch with the fan pointed directly at you or at the local watering hole/river/pool/beach up to your neck in water. Anything to stay cool.

When it’s really hot it makes it difficult to even think about doing anything productive. But life doesn’t stop because it’s a hot summer’s day. We still have to work, go to school, do our chores, exercise and socialise. Life goes on.

But a really simple thing we can do to make it easier to cope is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.

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

And while we can survive for weeks without food, we can only survive for days without water. It really is essential for our survival.

The importance of water

Water lubricates and cushions our joints, aids digestion, prevents constipation, keeps our temperature normal and helps maintain blood pressure. It carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells, flushes out toxins, and cushions the brain and spinal cord. It can also help prevent gout attacks, boost energy levels and fight fatigue. It also makes us feel full, which in turn helps us maintain or lose weight.

It’s practically magic, which is why it’s so often referred to as the elixir of life.

We lose water constantly when we breathe, sweat and go to the toilet, so we need to replace it constantly. If we don’t, our body can’t work as well as it should. We start feeling thirsty, and may experience symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, tiredness or a headache.

How much water should you drink every day?

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, weight, health, the temperature and your environment will affect how much water you’ll need. Other factors such as whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or living or working in environments that cause you to sweat more will increase the amount of water you need to drink every day. As will your level of physical activity. So there are a lot of factors that will affect how much you need. And this may change from day to day.

That’s why the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that you drink ‘plenty of water’, as they acknowledge that the amount needed is so specific to each person.

The old adage of eight glasses every day is not based on any scientific evidence. You should let your thirst be the guide.

Another good indicator as to whether you’re drinking enough water is the colour of your urine. If it’s consistently pale or very light then you’re getting enough water, however if it’s darker, it means that you’re dehydrated and need to increase your daily intake of water. Healthdirect has a urine chart to help you see if you’re adequately hydrated. Check it out and next time you go for a wee, notice the colour. Where does it fit on the chart?

Tips to increase your water intake

Many people find it difficult to drink enough water every day. Hectic schedules and just the general business of life means that we can go for long periods of time without having a drink. Here are some suggestions to help you get enough water every day:

  • Buy a good quality water bottle (or two) and keep it with you at work, in the car, when you’re out and about, or 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.
  • Don’t forget other drinks (e.g. fruit juice, milk, herbal tea) and many foods (e.g. celery, cucumber, strawberries and melons) all contribute to your daily water intake. While plain water is the best option and should be your hydration ‘go to’, other drinks and foods do play an important role. Read this article from Medical News Today – Hydrating foods: The top 20 and their benefits – for more info.
  • Make it a habit. For example, drink a glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning. You’ve gone many hours without any water and likely have a dry mouth and gross morning breath. A glass of water will help with both of those things. Drink water with your meals and before you go to bed. Building it into your everyday routine means it’ll become a habit and you’re less likely to become dehydrated.
  • Create triggers. This is part of making it a habit. So when you do things like clean your teeth, go to the loo, walk through the kitchen, watch your favourite TV show, or come back from a walk, have a glass of water.
  • Jazz up your water by adding healthy additions that provide a flavour punch. Think about slices of citrus fruits like lemon, lime or orange. Or some mint leaves, ginger or lemongrass. There are so many options. Just be careful if you’re adding teas, infusions or cordials to your water that you’re not adding a lot of extra sugar.
  • Add some sparkle. If you find plain water a little uninspiring, mix it up with some sparkling water. Again – plain is best, but if you’re feeling bored with that, sparkling or carbonated water is a better alternative to soft drinks, fruit drinks and smoothies.
  • Set reminders on your phone or computer. Just as you do to get up and move, set an alarm to remind you to drink some water.
  • Have a glass of water whenever you eat. If you’re dining out, ask for water for your table.
  • Track your water intake on your fitness tracker or health app.
  • Consume alcohol and drinks containing caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, cola) in moderation. They’re diuretics, which means they make you go to the toilet more often and lose water through urine, so be careful of the amount you drink.
  • 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 or a dietitian.

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 notice how much better you feel when you’re properly hydrated.

And with the hot weather making us feel limp and wrung out, it’s the perfect time to get started.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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13/Jan/2021

It’s warming up all over the country, and that means getting out with our family and friends and enjoying some much needed fun in the sun.

Aside from the enjoyment we get from being outdoors, exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun is vital for our bone health. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, which helps our body absorb calcium.

But we need to balance our desire to be outdoors and getting our daily dose of vitamin D, with protecting ourselves against sunburn, skin cancer, photosensitivity and flares.

So let’s explore each of these issues and look at how to stay safe this summer.

Sunburn and skin cancer

We all know the ‘slip, slop, slap’ message and the importance of protecting ourselves from the harsh Australian summer sun. After all the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is the major cause of skin cancer and we have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

And yet we compliment people when they return from a holiday on how tanned they look. For some reason we associate tanned skin with good health.

However the Cancer Council advises us that “there is no such thing as a safe tan…tanning is a sign your skin cells are in trauma.

So protecting our skin is vital, but we still need some exposure to the sun to produce vitamin D.

You can do that safely by exposing your hands, face and arms to the sun most days. But you’ll need to take into account factors such as where you live, the time of the year and the complexion of your skin. They all affect how long you can be exposed to the sun safely. Osteoporosis Australia has developed a chart to help you work this out.

As well as the length of time to expose your skin, you also need to know the safest time of the day to do so. Whenever the UV index reaches 3 and above, most people need to use sun protection.

You can check your local UV Index by visiting the Bureau of Meteorology website or downloading the SunSmart app.

Photosensitivity and flares

Exposure to the sun can be an issue for many people with conditions such as lupus, dermatomyositis and Sjogren’s syndrome. Sun exposure can cause rashes, lesions and flare ups.

Some medications used to treat musculoskeletal conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other, more general medications, can also cause your skin to be sensitive to sunlight. This includes antibiotics, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (such as methotrexate), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as diclofenac and ibuprofen), antidepressants and oral contraceptives.

So that sucks. Especially when you’re gazing out your window at a lovely summery day.

The good news is you can enjoy the sun despite all of this

There are lots of things you can do to enjoy the sun safely, without risking your skin. And most of the things you do to protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer, will also help prevent photosensitivity and rashes.

  • Embrace sunscreen! It’s your new best friend. Make sure it’s broad spectrum – this means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays – and that it has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • Slather it on. We really don’t use enough sunscreen. The Cancer Council advises that we need to apply it 20 minutes before we go outside. And that we use about a teaspoon for EACH arm, leg, front of our body, back of our body, as well as our face (including lips, neck and ears). That works out to be seven teaspoons of sunscreen. And you need to reapply at least every two hours. Find out more from the Cancer Council.
  • If you wear makeup, apply your sunscreen before you moisturise and put on makeup.
  • Choose your summer clothing and hats carefully. Not all fabric provides the same sun protection. To block more of the sun’s rays, choose clothing that has a thick, dark fabric with a tight weave and covers most of your skin, especially when the UV levels are high. Make sure your hat shades your whole face, neck, ears and head. Broad-brimmed hats with a brim of at least 7.5cm provide excellent protection.
  • Seek out the shade. Make sure you have places to go where you can retreat from the sun.
  • Keep a sun umbrella handy – or be fancy and use a parasol – just in case you’re out in the sun unexpectedly or shady places are hard to find.
  • Try to stay out of the sun when UV levels are high (check your SunSmart app or BOM).
  • Avoid highly reflective surfaces such as sand or water.
  • Talk with your doctor about your medications if you think they’re making you photosensitive. You may be able to use an alternative medication.
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses. We also need to protect our eyes from the UV rays, as the sun can cause serious eye damage. So make sure you grab your sunnies before heading out the door.
  • During warmer weather, you should also ensure that you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

As the mercury soars, summer presents us all with a number of challenges, but also a lot of great times.
Remember to pace yourself, stay well hydrated and protect yourself by following the simple rules of slip, slop, slap, seek, slide. Most importantly, make the most of our warmer weather and enjoy it!

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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13/Jan/2021

It’s the start of 2021 and many of us are feeling the effects of consuming too many yummy things during the holidays. Trifles, honey glazed hams, wine, pavlova, cheesecakes, rum balls, cocktails, pudding, soft drinks, fancy salads with sweet dressings, crackers, lots and lots of lollies…and that was just one day!!

But sadly while we may love these high-sugar foods, they don’t love us back. And if we don’t consume them in moderation, they can have some very negative impacts on our health and wellbeing.

So let’s take a look at the delicious, but bittersweet world of sugar.

Did you know?

Consuming too much sugar can increase muscle and joint inflammation. It can also lead to weight gain, an increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, high blood pressure, acne and dental disease. Which means Mary Poppins had it all wrong with her spoonful of sugar – it doesn’t help the medicine go down ☹.

How much sugar should we aim for?

Because of the many health issues linked to a diet high in sugar, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a guideline that states “in both adults and children, WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake”. (i)

By free sugars they’re referring to the sugars “added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates”. (ii)

For an adult with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), 10% works out to be about 12 teaspoons (or 50 grams) of sugar, in all its forms, per day.(iii) While that sounds like a lot, there’s a lot of hidden sugar in our food. Apart from what we add when cooking or making a cuppa, there’s the sugar that’s in our processed, packaged and pre-prepared foods, soft drinks, fruit drinks, bread, crackers, alcohol etc. So it all adds up very quickly.

In the 2018 report Nutrition across the life stages, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported that “more than half of the population in each age group up to 19–30 have intakes of free sugars that are greater than the WHO guideline. While this decreased slightly with older age groups, it remains high, with between 35% and 50% of the population with intakes greater than or equal to 10% of energy intake”.(iv)

The main contributors to added sugars intake include: “fruit and vegetable juices and drinks, soft drinks, cakes and muffins, cordials and sweet biscuits”.(v)

But we can change our eating behaviour to reduce the amount of sugar we consume. We don’t have to be a slave to our sweet tooth or our eating habits. And in a short period of time we can experience the improved health benefits of eating a balanced diet, low in sugar.

Did you know?

Sugar has many different names. You may be familiar with some of the ones ending in ‘ose’ – glucose, fructose, dextrose – but there are many that don’t even sound like a sugar, like demarara and turbinado! That’s why it’s a good idea to become familiar with the different names of sugar, so you know what to look for. Choice has a helpful list of 42 different names for added sugar to help you.

Let’s get started – some tips for reducing your sugar intake

  • Get help. You don’t have to do this on your own. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian for advice and strategies to help you reduce your sugar consumption. And get the family involved. It’s more than likely that if one person in the household is consuming too much sugar, then others are too.
  • Read the nutrition information panels and ingredients lists on your packaged foods. EatForHealth.gov.au has some great resources to help you understand what you’re looking at. And remember, sugar has several names that may be listed in the ingredients list – so one product may list sugar, invert sugar, malt extract, glucose solids, golden syrup, and honey – all in the one item! That’s a lot of sugar.
  • Compare similar products. Once you’ve wrapped your head around reading nutrition panels and ingredients lists, compare products before you buy them. For example, compare different yoghurts – one may have a much higher percentage of added sugar than another.
  • Decide how you’re going to do this. You may decide to go cold turkey and stop consuming anything with sugar. This sounds really hard to me but it works for a lot of people. Or you can make changes gradually and consistently. This can also be tough, so getting help from a dietitian is a really good idea.
  • Reduce your intake of sugary drinks, including alcohol. We know soft drinks are full of sugar, but so too are flavoured milk drinks, fruit and vegie juices and store bought smoothies, slushies, milkshakes etc. Drink water – plain or sparkling instead. And if you want a flavour hit, add some lemon or lime slices, or some mint leaves.
  • Think about why you’re eating that ice cream after dinner or mid-afternoon chocolate bar. Are you actually hungry or is it a habit? If you’re hungry choose something that’s not full of sugar like unsweetened Greek yoghurt with some passionfruit or berries, or a small handful of unsalted almonds. If you’re eating because it’s a habit, do something else. Take the dog for a walk, talk with your kids, fold the laundry, clean your teeth. Distract yourself until you’re no longer thinking about eating.
  • Make sure you’re eating enough fibre and protein. They’ll make you feel full and satisfied, so you’re less likely to snack. Fibre is also important for a healthy digestive system, while protein has many health benefits including providing energy, growing and repairing cells and keeping your immune system healthy.
  • Manage your stress. We often reach for the comfort foods when we’re feeling anxious or stressed because they make us feel better. Find other ways to deal with stressful situations that don’t involve sugary food or drinks.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Being tired or feeling fatigued is one of the many reasons we crave sugary things because we know it’ll give us a quick burst of energy. But that energy doesn’t last. You soon go back to feeling tired and needing more sugar to keep you going. And lack of sleep is also linked to weight gain; when coupled with a diet high in sugar, it’s not a great combo. Read our information on sleep for more information about how you can improve your sleep quality and quantity.
  • Be prepared for the potential for sugar withdrawal. Sugar is addictive, and some people may find they experience symptoms such as headache, fatigue and lack of concentration when they reduce their sugar intake. But it will pass. Have some strategies in place in case this happens to you such as: going for a walk, calling a friend, having a cup of tea or coffee (minus any added sugars or syrups), drinking some water, getting some fresh air, doing a crossword. Whatever works to distract you from the symptoms you’re experiencing.

In the end, it’s up to you how much or how little sugar you want to have in your diet. There are definite health benefits for having a diet low in sugar, but that doesn’t mean no sugar.

So if you’re struggling with the idea of giving up all of the sweet things that you enjoy, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy your favourite sweet every now and again.

And you’re more likely to really savour it because you’re eating it because you enjoy it – not because you’re tired, stressed, bored or because it’s a habit. So take some steps today to reduce your sugar intake. Your body will thank you for it.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore

References

i-ii WHO Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children, 2015.
iii Food Standards Australia & New Zealand: Sugar, 2019.
iv-v AIHW Nutrition across the life stages, 2018.


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13/Jan/2021

We all know that when our muscles and joints are stiff or painful, it can be hard to move. But we also know that regular exercise is essential for managing musculoskeletal conditions. It helps reduce pain and stiffness, and improves joint mobility and strength. It can also improve balance, sleep quality, lower stress levels, improve mood and help us maintain a healthy weight. It’s practically magic!

But when you’re in pain, exercise can feel like the very last thing you want to do. So what to do?

Just add water!

There are so many benefits to exercising in warm water:

  • the warmth is soothing and helps relieve pain and stiffness
  • the buoyancy supports your body and lessens the strain on your joints
  • water resistance enables you to gradually build up flexibility, strength and stamina
  • anyone can do it – no matter your age or level of fitness.

What is water exercise?

A water exercise program is much more than just going for a swim. Swimming regularly is an excellent way to improve your heart and lung fitness without putting too much strain on your joints, but for a complete workout you need to do a range of exercises which move all your joints and work all your muscles. You can easily do this in a warm water pool.

There are different ways you can exercise in water

1. Water exercise classes
You can enjoy the fun, motivation and social interaction of exercising with others in a class that suits your capabilities and fitness level. In these classes all participants follow the same general exercises.

Many recreation and fitness centres run water exercise classes and cater to a wide range of abilities and fitness levels.

Contact your local centre and talk with an instructor to find out what’s available and to discuss your exercise goals. And ask if you can visit the centre and observe a class before you sign up so that you can be sure it’s the right fit for you.

2. Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy is specialised exercise therapy run by a health professional such as a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist in a specially heated warm water pool. The exercises are tailored to you and your specific needs. You can do hydrotherapy on your own with the health professional or in a small group.

3. Going solo
You can do your own water exercises in a warm water pool at home or in recreation centres, fitness clubs, swimming schools and retirement villages.

Here are some tips for getting started with your own program:

  • If you’re not sure what exercises to do, talk with a qualified instructor or health professional. We’ve also included links to some general exercises in the More to explore section below.
  • Choose a time when the pool is fairly quiet so you can move safely and confidently around the pool area and you’re less likely to be knocked by enthusiastic swimmers and others enjoying more boisterous water activities.
  • Check the ease and safety of access into the centre, around the dressing area and into the pool.

Swimming is also a good form of water exercise you can do on your own. While it doesn’t work all of your muscles and joints through their range of movement, it’s excellent for your heart and lungs.

What if you can’t swim?

If you can’t swim, that’s ok. Water exercise classes take place in water that’s about chest height. So you can stand with your head above the water. You can also use flotation devices to give you the confidence to get moving in water if you’re feeling a bit apprehensive.

Tips for exercising in warm water

Whether you’re exercising at home or in a community pool, participating in a class or doing your own exercises, you’ll get the most benefit from your exercise session and ensure your safety and wellbeing by following these tips:

  • Don’t go into the water if you’re sick, have any wounds or skin irritations/infections.
  • Check out the venue to see if it’s suitable for you. For example, is the pool easy to access? Are the change rooms accessible and comfortable? Is the venue close enough for you to go to regularly? Do the class times and opening hours of the venue work for you?
  • Begin your exercise program with short sessions and gradually build up over time.
  • Perform each movement as gracefully and smoothly as you can.
  • Keep the body part you’re exercising under the water. This may require you to squat or bob down at times.
  • Come out of the water immediately if you feel light-headed, dizzy, drowsy, extremely fatigued or nauseous. These reactions are possible if you spend too long in very warm water. Drink some water and sit or lie down for a while.
  • Stop doing an exercise which causes severe pain or discomfort. Consult your doctor, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist if your joint symptoms increase significantly after an exercise session.
  • Ease up if you experience mild to moderate joint or muscle pain for more than a few hours after your exercise session. Some increased pain is normal after exercise, especially when you’re starting out, but if you’re in pain hours after your visit to the pool, you’ve likely overdone it. Reduce the intensity next time – but don’t stop.
  • If you’ve had a joint replacement, keep in mind the movements you were instructed to avoid by your surgeon or physiotherapist.
  • Consider wearing water shoes if you find you’re slipping and sliding in the pool. They’ll give you some grip to help you keep your balance.
  • Have a drink after a water exercise session to replace the fluid you’ve lost through perspiration.
  • Take care when moving in wet areas around the pool, including in change rooms, to avoid slipping and falls.
  • Rest afterwards if you feel tired. Exercising in warm water can be quite draining.

And as always, follow COVID-safe practises and abide by any rules that are in force in your state or territory.

So there you have it. Exercising in the water. It’s a great addition to your exercise routine that’s effective, fun and safe. Why not give it a go?

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


true-love.jpg
17/Dec/2020

With Christmas and the festive season just around the corner, and a tough year almost behind us, it’s the perfect time for a wellness challenge!

And before you roll your eyes, this challenge is fun, it’s easy and we‘ve tied it in with song The 12 days of Christmas… so it all begins on Christmas day.

So strap yourselves in, it’s a weird and wacky song! But we hope you’ll have some fun with the 12 days of wellness challenge.

Happy holidays, stay safe, and keep well!

25 December

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, a partridge in a pear tree…

While a partridge in a pear tree doesn’t sound like cause for celebration, the fact that we’ve made it to Christmas Day certainly is! So let’s celebrate!! Dance around your lounge room, sing carols, toast your family and friends because we made it! We’re with our loved ones – hopefully in person, but if not, virtually is good too. Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy this day.

26 December

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me, two turtles doves… 

Get outside and walk off some of the Christmas yumminess. See if you can spot some turtle doves (might be a tad tricky as they appear to be European).

Any-hoo, see if you can at least spot a pigeon while enjoying your walk. Enjoy the sunshine and vitamin D and breathe in the fresh air – how good does it feel without a mask?

27 December

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me, three French hens…

What’s with all the birds? Weird, but we can use the French vibe for our third day.

Catch up with friends and do something fun together. Channel your inner Parisian, grab some baguettes, cheese, wine and eclairs (yum), and have a picnic in the park. Or visit a café and enjoy a cafe au lait while you watch the people stroll by. Finish with a promenade along a river or visit a gallery for the perfect end to your day.

28 December

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, four calling birds…

More birds! But they’re on the right track as far as calling goes.

Today call or face time someone you haven’t spoken with for a while. Catch up on their lives and let them know how you’re doing. If this year has taught us nothing else, it’s that our connections are vital. We need them for our physical, mental and emotional health. So pick up the phone and call someone.

29 December

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, five gold rings… 

Now we’re talking! Only joking, I prefer silver.

Today the challenge is to take photos of three things that make you happy. The sky’s the limit – so it may be some gold rings, or your family, your dog, some flowers, a sunset, a meal, or the clouds in the sky. Whatever makes you happy – point and click. And save them so you can look at them whenever you’re feeling a bit down and need a boost.

30 December

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, six geese a-laying…

Come on, seriously? This true love was mad for birds!

Today, let’s hit the trails. Grab your bike, borrow one from a friend, or hire one…and let’s go for a ride. Riding is a low impact and fun exercise that’s suitable for most people. Read our blog for some tips to make your ride a fun, enjoyable outing without the pain.

As usual keep your eye out for birds – especially of the geese variety who may or may not be laying.

31 December

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, seven swans a-swimming… 

More birds – sigh. But the swimming part is a great idea! Nothing says summer like hitting the beach, pool, river or watering hole for a swim to cool down. And it’s a wonderful exercise for anyone with a musculoskeletal condition. Your body is supported by the water and the resistance provided by moving through water builds muscle strength and endurance.

And since it’s New Year’s Eve, while you’re floating around in the water, take some time to reflect on 2020 and three things you’re grateful for. It’s been a tough year, but there have been some highlights. What were yours?

1 January

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eight maids a-milking… 

Hello 2021! It’s a new year, and we often start a new year with some resolutions. Instead of doing the usual – lose weight, get more exercise, quit smoking (although we can still do these) – let’s use the new year to a set a goal to do that ‘one thing’ we’ve always wanted to do. And make a plan to achieve your goal.

So if you’ve always wanted to milk a cow, get those milk maids involved and find a cow.

But seriously, most of us have something that we’ve always wanted to try or accomplish. Write a novel, play an instrument, become conversant in another language, take up pottery, learn to cook…whatever it is, write it down, then work out the steps you need to achieve your goal. Check out our info on goal setting for tips and advice. And good luck!

2 January

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, nine ladies dancing… 

Today it’s all about unplugging and a digital detox. Put your phone aside for an hour, 2 hours, the whole day! Dance with nine ladies, or just by yourself, go for a walk, talk with your neighbor, do some yoga/tai chi/stretching, curl up on your couch with a book, de-stress with some guided imagery. Whatever you do, avoid using any tech or gadgets for the time you’ve put aside for your detox…and enjoy!

3 January

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, ten lords a-leaping…

This true love had some wacky gift ideas, but hats off for the creativity!

The tenth day challenge is to do some mindfulness meditation. With Christmas and New Year done and dusted, many of us will be feeling tired from all of our commitments and celebrations. This may have aggravated our pain and fatigue, and made us feel a little overwhelmed. So let’s do something that will help us focus and be mindful. Find yourself a comfy spot, read our info on mindfulness meditation and do the simple body scan we’ve provided.

Or if mindfulness isn’t your thing, what about some visualisation? It also uses the power of your mind to reduce pain and stress, but it’s free flowing and allows you to use your imagination. Remember the details of a past event, visualise a future event, or think of something completely out there…like 10 lords a-leaping.

4 January

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eleven pipers piping…

Today seems like a good day to go all out and make a meal that fills you with joy. Whether it’s something your mum or dad used to make for you when you were little, that brings back happy childhood memories, or a meal that you love but never make because it’s too complicated/decadent/full of calories…cook it! And take time to savour it. Really enjoy each mouthful. And then blow your own trumpet about how good it is (that’s the closest I could get to pipers!).

5 January

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, twelve drummers drumming… 

Drumroll please- let’s go out with a bang!

Today is the day to do whatever you want. So it’s not a hard challenge at all.

Put your favourite music on and sing, dance, do your best air guitar/air drums or just sit back and listen. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment – in a salon or at home. Read a book or magazine, put your feet up and relax. Go for a hike with friends. Pull out the Lego and let your imagination go wild. Build a fort in your lounge. Stay in your PJs all day. Explore a gallery/museum/library – in person or virtually. Go hot air-ballooning. Buy a drum kit and go crazy – like Animal from the Muppets playing with Dave Grohl, or the True Love’s twelve drummers.

Take this day to do something that makes you happy and fill you with joy. Life’s short – let’s make every moment count.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.


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17/Dec/2020

…when it comes to complementary, alternative and ‘natural’ treatments

Many Australians use complementary or alternative treatments to manage their health condition (e.g. arthritis, anxiety) or to improve their overall health and wellbeing. But what are these treatments and what do you need to consider before trying them?

Complementary and alternative treatments include a wide range of therapies, medicines, products or practices that aren’t currently considered to be a conventional or mainstream medical treatment. They include acupuncture, meditation, massage, herbal treatments, yoga, aromatherapy and naturopathy.

The word complementary usually refers to treatments that are used alongside conventional medicine, whereas alternative usually means the treatment is used instead of conventional medicine.

To make things easier (and less wordy), we’ll use the term complementary treatment when referring to all types of complementary or alternative treatments in this article.

Why do we use complementary treatments?

People are attracted to these treatments because they often have a more holistic approach and treat the entire person, rather than just their condition or symptoms. They also appear to be more natural and safer than conventional medicine.

But it’s important to understand that as with any treatment, complementary treatments may cause harm and make you unwell if they’re not taken correctly, if they interact with one of your other medications, or if the practitioner you see isn’t properly trained or qualified. That’s why you should discuss your use, or intended use, or any complementary treatments with your doctor.

Do they work for musculoskeletal conditions?

While many people feel that using complementary treatments has been beneficial for their health and wellbeing, there isn’t as much evidence to support its use for musculoskeletal conditions as there is for conventional medicines.

For many complementary treatments there just aren’t enough well-designed randomised controlled trials to show whether or not these therapies are effective. And if they are effective, for which conditions or symptoms.

However some types of complementary treatments show promise and may be helpful for managing your condition. More and more research is now focusing on these treatments. But at the moment the evidence is still lacking so it’s best to take your time, do your research and make sure the treatment is right for you.

Tips for starting a new complementary treatment

Let your doctor know what you’re doing. Keep them informed about any things you’re taking or considering taking (e.g. supplements, homeopathic treatments, herbal medicines) as well as any other therapies you’re trying or considering trying (e.g. acupuncture, yoga).

Continue taking your medications as prescribed. Don’t stop taking any medications without first discussing it with your doctor. Some medications need to be gradually reduced, rather than simply stopped, to avoid side effects.

Think about what you want to get out of the treatment. Are you hoping to control symptoms like pain or fatigue? Sleep better? Reduce or stop taking certain medications? Manage your anxiety? When you have a clear goal from the beginning of your treatment, you can monitor your progress and see if there are any improvements. After starting a new treatment, write down any changes you notice for a month – remember to include any medication changes, changes in your exercise program, the amount of sleep you’re getting and anything else that could affect your symptoms. At the end of the month, you’ll have a clearer picture of whether or not the treatment is working. If it’s not, it may be time to look for an alternative.

Do your research and ask lots of questions. Some treatments may help you manage your condition or symptoms, while others will have no effect. Visit websites such as MedlinePlus and The Cochrane Library to learn more about the treatment. And talk with your doctor and the therapist. Find out if:

  • there’s any current evidence that the treatment is effective and safe for people with your condition?
  • the treatment’s been shown to be effective in repeated scientific studies with large numbers of people?
  • the research used a control group? A control group is a group of people who don’t have a particular treatment compared with a group of similar people who do. This helps to show that any results are due to the treatment and not some other factor.
  • potential risks, side effects and interactions with other treatments are clearly identified?
  • you can continue to use your current effective treatments, as well as the complementary treatment?
  • the treatment’s something you can afford and can access easily?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you should be wary of the treatment. Discuss it with your doctor or specialist before you go any further.

Check the qualifications of the person providing the treatment.

  • Do they receive regular training and updates?
  • Have they treated other people with your condition or health issues?
  • Are they a member of their peak body?
  • Are they accredited?

Buy Australian. Australian complementary medicines are subject to strict safety and quality regulations. This may not be the case in other countries. In Australia the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) ensures the safety of medicines and other therapeutic treatments.

Call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424). As well as information on your prescription and over-the-counter medicines, they can also help you find out more about herbal medicine, vitamins and minerals.

After doing your research, if you have any doubts about the treatment, don’t use it.

Talk with your doctor or contact our MSK Help Line weekdays on 1800 263 265 helpline@msk.org.au for information about other treatment options.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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17/Dec/2020

Smoking is bad for your health. There’s no denying it. And as we come to the close of a very stressful year, and we start thinking about our resolutions for the New Year, quitting smoking is a good choice.

As well as the obvious links to cancer and lung disease, smoking’s linked to back pain, neck pain, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Smoking also causes fatigue and slower healing, which can make your pain worse. And it can make some of your medications less effective.

So quitting smoking has many health benefits. Within weeks of quitting you’ll breathe easier and have more energy, making it easier to exercise and do your day-to-day activities.

Quitting can be really tough, and it may take several attempts, but you can do it. And it’s so worth it.

Tips for quitting

Get help. You don’t have to do it on your own. There are lots of people and organisations who can help you. Talk to your doctor, contact Quitline (137 848) or ICanQuit and get your family involved.

Decide on a strategy. Are you going to use medication, nicotine replacement, coaching or a combination of strategies? Or are you going to go cold turkey? There’s no ‘one size fit all’ strategy for quitting. Learn more about the many different ways you can quit smoking.

Choose your day to quit. Mark it in your diary, put a big note on your fridge and get ready. Toss out any cigarettes you have in the house, car, office or garage. Fill your pantry with healthy snacks and get your walking shoes ready.

Talk to your family and friends. Let them know what you’re doing and why, and ask for their support.

Write down the reasons you want to quit and put this list in prominent places to encourage and motivate you.

Be prepared for withdrawal. It can make you tired, cranky, anxious, hungry and interfere with your sleep and concentration. These symptoms will eventually go away over the next 2-4 weeks, but you should be prepared for them.

Know your triggers. Each smoker will have different triggers, like smoking when you’re stressed or unhappy, or after you’ve eaten, when you’re drinking with friends, or watching TV. So it’s important to know your triggers and have some strategies in place for when you’re hit with the urge to smoke. Find out about triggers and the different things you can do to manage them.

Calculate the cost. Smoking is really expensive! Use this calculator from ICanQuit to work out just how much money you’ll save if you quit smoking. It’s sure to be a motivator!

Manage your weight. Some people find that they gain a little weight when they quit smoking. This can be for many reasons – eating becomes a substitute for smoking, food tastes better so you eat more, eating becomes a new way to manage stress or anxiety. But knowing this may be a problem means you can be prepared. Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, watch your portion sizes, make sure you get plenty of exercise and learn new ways to manage your stress.

Get some exercise. It’s vital for overall good health, and it’s a great way to manage the pain and symptoms of your musculoskeletal condition. And how much easier is it when you’re not smoking?

Use some of the money you save and treat yourself to something special. You’ve worked hard – spoil yourself with a massage, visit a favourite restaurant, buy that outfit or pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on. Treat yo’ self!

Be kind. Quitting can be difficult and you may have a slip-up or two. It’s not the end of the world, or the end of quitting. You can get back on track. So be kind to yourself.

For more tips to help you stick with quitting, check out the great info on the Quitline and ICanQuit websites.

Quitting smoking is hard – but there are so many rewards.

Take your first step today – talk to your doctor, get your family and friends on board to support you, and contact Quitline on 13 78 48. You’ll feel so much better.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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17/Dec/2020

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

Update 9 January 2021: This article was written in the heady days as we counted down to the end of 2020 – before the new, highly contagious variant of COVID was known to most of us. So unfortunately masks are still with us for a while. 

2020 was the year of the humble face mask, especially in Victoria. They’ve protected us, divided us, helped keep COVID at bay. And with their use no longer mandatory in most situations I’ve been reflecting on what they’ve meant to us, and things we’ve learned after wearing them for months.

And with a COVID vaccine on the horizon (fingers crossed!) we may be able to stow them away in the back of our closets, hopefully to gather dust for many, many years.

  • Let’s hear it for the early adopters, the trail blazers. The people who wore masks from the very beginning of the pandemic, and eased us into mask wearing. By the time their use became mandatory, they were strange, but not as foreign as they might have been.
  • All the things we told people not to do in the beginning – “don’t touch your face”, blah, blah, blah – as soon as we all started wearing masks, we did all of those things. It seemed as soon as you put a mask on, your nose started itching.
  • We learned that masks can help prevent people who are asymptomatic with COVID, or have what they think is ‘just a sniffle’, from spreading the virus to others. And that we may decide to wear a mask on a voluntary basis in the future when we do have a sniffle or a cold. It’s a small act that can have a big impact in reducing the spread of airborne disease.
  • They made those of us who felt more at risk of developing COVID – and experiencing worse outcomes as a result – feel a little more secure when we had to venture out, especially when combined with all the other measures we were using.
  • We had a run on fabric and elastic. The stores couldn’t keep up with the demand for mask making supplies ✂.
  • Those wearing glasses quickly discovered the dilemma of foggy glasses with many tips, tricks and myths spread to keep glasses fog free. We also learned which shape masks worked better with glasses.
  • When wearing a mask, no one can see you yawn.
  • But then no one can see you smile. So we learned to smile more with our eyes, and wave at each other. A lot.
  • Since our eyes were what people could see, we accentuated them more with make-up – eye shadow, mascara, glitter (or was that just me?).
  • We discovered the perils of dangly earrings and masks. I can’t count the number of times I got my earrings caught in the elastic (again, was that just me?).
  • We’ve never been so obsessed with our breath…because we were inhaling it from very close quarters. And that was a shock for many people! But a word from the wise, don’t shove a handful of mints in your mouth before donning a mask, especially if you wear glasses. The minty freshness will bring tears to your eyes.
  • The Melbourne look took off. You couldn’t wear a mask while eating or drinking (obviously) so this look – active wear, masks under chin and coffee cup in hand – became de rigueur.
  • Cars all over the state had masks adorning their dashboards and dangling from the rear vision mirror.
  • And yet, we’d often forget them and only remember we needed one when we were in the middle of the supermarket and saw everyone else wearing a mask. We’ve all been there. And gotten the sympathetic look from other shoppers who’d also forgotten their masks from time to time.
  • For people rocking beards and moustaches, masks were a little tricky. They prevented the mask from sitting flush to the face and creating a proper seal. So kudos to the people who found inventive ways to create masks that not only covered their nose and mouth, but also their facial hair. Or who made the ultimate sacrifice and decided to shave it all off for now.
  • Masks started out being very practical and drab, but over time they became a fashion statement. They coordinated with outfits, were made from beautiful prints, were decorated with sequins and other bling, showed our support for a sporting team, our love of bands, animals, books and movies, and even displayed our company logos.
  • We saw what seemed to be a massive increase in the number of people jogging and running – because you didn’t have to wear a mask while doing either of those things.
  • We learned that you could breathe while wearing a mask, though if you had a blocked nose it wasn’t pleasant. But you could do it.
  • Sadly, disposable masks became a frequently spotted piece of litter in our parks, walkways and carparks.
  • And then there were the jokes, tweets, puns and one liners that masks gave birth to:
    • When I go out for a latte, I think of it less as a mask and more as a coughy filter.
    • Surprised me when I saw someone wearing a Gloria Gaynor mask. At first I was afraid…
    • Bought a mask for my pet duck. Wasn’t sure if it was the right one at first, but it fitted the bill.

When it’s all said and done, we got used to them. They were irritating, but they did the job. In a few years we’ll look back on 2020 and be proud of our hard work and the effort we put in to protect the community from this insidious virus. And we’ll probably wonder why we made such a fuss about a few pieces of fabric.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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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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