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22/Apr/2021

I know, I know…we talk about self-care A LOT. But understanding and practising self-care is such an important tool for living your best life and getting the best health outcomes when you have a chronic condition. That’s why we talk about it so much.

Based on the findings of our 2020 national consumer survey, we know people with musculoskeletal conditions are practising self-care by exercising, eating healthfully, appropriately using medications, working with their healthcare team, using mind-body techniques and seeking peer support.

But they also told us they needed support to do this.

So what is self-care?

Self-care is vital and covers all aspects of our health and wellbeing. Things like exercise, visiting your specialist, taking your medication, mindfulness, learning about your condition/s, talking with a friend and even relaxing in a bubble bath; are all part of self-care

To understand the breadth of self-care, and how you can incorporate it into your life in a meaningful way, the International Self-Care Foundation (ISF) has developed a framework for self-care around seven ‘pillars’ or ‘domains’.

Let’s explore each of these.

Pillar 1. Knowledge and health literacy
Knowledge, as the saying goes, is power – so understanding your body, how it works, how it’s affected by your musculoskeletal condition/s, as well as any other health condition you have – gives you the ability to make informed decisions and play an active role in the management of your healthcare.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care defines health literacy as the way we “understand information about health and health care, and how we apply that information to our lives, use it to make decisions and act on it”.

Together, health literacy and knowledge give us the tools we need to be empowered when it comes to our healthcare. By understanding our body and our health, we can discuss our options with our health professionals, we can critically evaluate information from a range of sources, make adjustments to our lifestyle and behaviours, understand risk factors and the appropriate use of treatments and tests.

In fact, research shows that people who have high levels of knowledge and health literacy have much better health outcomes.

If you want to know more about your health and musculoskeletal condition/s, or you need help to improve your health literacy, there are lots of people who can help you.

Talk with your doctor and other members of your healthcare team. Contact the MSK Help Line and speak with our nurses. Visit authoritative websites (like ours).

And don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s how we all learn.

Pillar 2. Mental wellbeing, self-awareness and agency
Incorporating things you enjoy and that make you feel good into your daily/weekly routine – such as mindfulness, exercise, alone time, relaxation, massage, and staying connected with family and friends – is a simple thing you can do to look after your mental wellbeing and increase your resilience.

Self-awareness involves taking the knowledge you have about your condition and health in general, and applying it to your specific circumstances. For example, if you’re having problems sleeping, and you know exercise can help with that, ensure you’re getting enough exercise each day. Or if you’re carrying more weight than you’d like, and this is causing increased knee pain, as well as issues with your self-esteem, talk with your doctor about safe ways you can lose weight. Or if you have rheumatoid arthritis and a family history of osteoporosis, talk with your doctor about how you can look after your bone health.

Agency is the ability and intention to act on your knowledge and self-awareness.

Pillar 3. Physical activity
OK, so this one’s fairly self-explanatory since we talk about the importance of exercise and being physically active all the time 😊.  Regular exercise helps us manage our musculoskeletal condition/s, pain, sleep, mood, weight, bone health – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It keeps us moving, improves our posture and balance, helps us stay connected and helps prevent (or manage) other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Pillar 4. Healthy eating
This one’s also easy to understand, as along with exercise, healthy eating plays a vital role in our overall health and wellbeing.

Being overweight or obese increases the load on joints, causing increased pain and joint damage, especially on weight-bearing joints like hips, knees, ankles and feet. The amount of overall fat you carry can contribute to low but persistent levels of inflammation across your entire body, including the joints affected by your musculoskeletal condition, increasing the inflammation in these already painful, inflamed joints.

Being overweight or obese can also increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, poor sleep and depression.

Being underweight also causes health issues. It can affect your immune system (meaning you’re more at risk of getting sick or an infection) and you may feel more tired than usual. Feeling tired and run down will affect your ability to be active, and do the things you want to do.

If you need help to eat more healthfully or manage your weight, talk with your doctor or dietitian.

Pillar 5. Risk avoidance or mitigation
Taking responsibility for our actions and doing all we can to reduce or avoid actions and behaviours that increase our risk of injury or death, is good for our health.

This includes things such as driving carefully and wearing a seatbelt, drinking alcohol in moderation, wearing a helmet when riding a bike, getting your vaccinations, protecting yourself from the sun, quitting smoking and practising safe sex.

It also includes seeing your doctor and healthcare team regularly so that you can stay on top of any changes to your musculoskeletal condition/s.

Pillar 6. Good hygiene
Many people living with a musculoskeletal condition/s are more susceptible to bugs, germs and other nasties in the environment than other people. Their immune system is weakened due to their health condition and/or the medications they’re required to take. Practising good hygiene is a simple thing you can do to reduce the risk of getting sick or developing infections.

Good hygiene includes things such as regular and thorough hand washing, coughing/sneezing into your elbow, appropriate and safe preparation and storage of food, cleaning your teeth regularly, staying home when sick, and having a clean home/work environment.

They all help us maintain good health and avoid spreading disease.

Pillar 7. Rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics and medicines

ISF calls these self-care products and services the ‘tools’ of self‐care, as they support health awareness and healthy practices.

These tools include medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), complementary therapies, monitoring equipment (e.g. blood pressure and blood glucose machines), aids and equipment (e.g. TENS machine, heat or cold pack, walking stick), wellness services (e.g. exercise classes, weight loss groups), and health services (e.g. smoking cessation programmes, physiotherapy, massage therapy).

ISF also states that the use of these tools should be ‘rational and responsible’. That means only using products and services proven to be safe and effective.

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So that’s it – the seven pillars of self-care. They provide a convenient, easy-to-understand description of self-care practises we can use to manage our health and musculoskeletal conditions.

“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” – Unknown

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, 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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04/Jun/2020

As COVID-19 restrictions came into force at the end of March, life as a Musculoskeletal Help Line Nurse began to change. Like many who were lucky enough to be able to work from home, I packed up my office, put it in the boot of my car and set-up my new workspace at home.

Work looked a little different now – face to face meetings became Zoom meetings, COVID-19 health news dominated our searches and we began recording videos to keep consumers updated. But most importantly one constant remained – we were still on the end of the phone or email for when a consumer needed some help or advice.

While the usual enquiries kept coming, there were also stories of personal struggles during the lockdown. People shared their feelings of anxiety surrounding social isolation, their vulnerability and how all too often their exercise routine had diminished, and their pain had increased. We talked over ways to try and overcome this – meditation, mindfulness, online exercise, pain management strategies etc – but sometimes it was just enough to have someone to talk things over with, and to feel like someone was really listening.

While the struggles were evident, it was also lovely to hear reports of some positive experiences that emerged. Social isolation forced many of us to slow down, to reflect on how much we try to squeeze into a day/week, and perhaps allowed us to reflect on the simple things in life that make us happy. For some it was spending more quality time with their immediate family, others enjoyed time to potter in the garden, clear out the cupboards, do some DIY or simply relax with a good book. In a hectic world, pressing the pause button seemed to bring a little light relief in one form or another.

As a nurse I am privileged to be able to share in peoples life experiences, including their ups and downs, and as we all get used to the ‘new normal’ I hope that I can continue to provide a friendly ear to make the COVID-19 journey just that little bit easier.

Clare

And some feedback from one of our recent callers:

“Thank you so much for your caring, helpful time with me, giving me very important vital information that I truly need in this very big, busy, fast city…I have received your email with excellent advice in all possible ways and hope for a better way of going along this painful journey with chronic conditions…in which I may be able to benefit and try…and not to feel so alone. I truly hope that things will change for the better. Thank you again Anne, have a gentle relaxing evening and keep warm. Can’t wait to see and read all the goodies inside the email you sent me. With best wishes and kind regards, VC”

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain 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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21/May/2020

Have you noticed how many new words, acronyms and phrases have entered our vocabulary since rona arrived?

We thought it was timely to have a quick look at some of the more common ones, so you’re up-to-date in iso.

  • BCV – before corona virus. This is self-explanatory. Those heady days before we’d even heard of COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2.
  • blursday – seriously what day of the week is it today? They really do all blur together in isolation.
  • corona moaner – we love rhyming don’t we? We all have our moans and complaints about iso and this strange situation we’re living through, but the corona moaner is the person who never stops complaining. You know who I’m talking about.
  • coronials – corona + millennials = a new generation, born about 9 months after isolation began. Lots of time at home together, a few quarantinis and whoops, we have a baby boom.
  • covexit – like Brexit – it’s the strategies for getting out of isolation and the economic issues associated with it. Let’s hope it’s smoother and quicker than Brexit!
  • coronacation – working or schooling from home. Though I’m a little perplexed by this one because it hasn’t felt like a holiday or vacation at all. It’s feels a bit like hard work, right??
  • covidiot – again fairly self-explanatory. Just as we love rhyming, we love joining words together to create new ones. A covidiot is someone who ignores physical distancing, ignores all the restrictions and thinks life can continue as usual, as if it was BCV.
  • covid-kilos – refers to the slightly curvier shape some of us have developed after making endless batches of banana bread or trying to make the perfect sourdough loaf or experimenting with quarantini recipes.
  • flattening the curve – this phrase entered our vocab very quickly. Basically it means limiting the spread of COVID-19 to reduce the impact on the health system. Sadly it’s not a quick fix to covid-kilos or pandemic padding.
  • iso – short for isolation. Der.
  • magpieing – this refers to the covidiots who created a toilet paper/hand sanitisier/flour/cake mix shortage for a time by buying up more than they could use in 10 lifetimes.
  • my corona – showing my age here, but this one always makes me laugh. It’s just a take on the 1979 song My Sharona by The Knack.
  • pandemic padding – see covid-kilos.
  • quarantini – a martini/cocktail you consume during quarantine. Going by the recipes and images on socials it now seems to be anything you want it to be. But it’s essentially an alcoholic drink you create using whatever you have on hand. Enjoy!
  • rona – our short, ‘affectionate’ name for coronavirus. Shortening it somehow makes it seem a little less scary.
  • sanny – short for hand sanitiser. Have you noticed how the world (or every public building you enter) is beginning to smell like sanny?
  • social/physical distancing – social distancing is used more often, but we prefer physical distancing. It simply refers to us staying physically distant from others to stop the spread of rona.
  • WFH – working from home, with all the joys of tech issues, fighting for space with the family, home schooling, pets and kids interrupting video chats. Yay.
  • zoombombing – the intrusion of covidiots you don’t know into your Zoom meeting. This can be for entertainment purposes – can you say bored covidiot? Or it could be for malicious reasons. Make sure you use the waiting room feature of Zoom so you can see who’s wanting to enter before they disrupt your meeting.

That’s it – you’re up-to-date. For the moment. It’s inevitable that new words and phrases will appear as we continue on our iso journey towards covexit.

Until then, go and fix yourself a quarantini, sit back and contemplate your coronacation. And as the sweet smell of sanny wafts through your home on this blursday in iso, take heart that we’re flattening the curve and we’ll soon be looking at ways to covexit.

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30/Apr/2020

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? So it’d be interesting to check that.” US President Trump, White House press briefing April 23 2020.

OK, so you probably don’t need to be told this but – whatever your political leaning is – please don’t inject, gargle, drink or ingest disinfectant. It’s incredibly dangerous.

Sadly this quote highlights the kind of harmful misinformation circulating widely about COVID-19 and potential treatments or ‘cures’. So it’s more important than ever that we think critically when it comes to the news, be it online, tv, radio, from our family, friends and even the US president.

There are many ways you can do this, but a simple one is the CRAAP test. And no, not that one! The CRAAP test is used by students and scholars and is a simple acronym that helps you ask critical questions about what you’re reading.

CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose.

Let’s look at each of these:

Currency – is the info up-to-date and timely?

It’s important when we’re evaluating info about COVID-19, and for most health related topics, that the information is up-to-date. So ask yourself:

  • When was it published or posted online? With COVID, the pool of information is growing exponentially and changing day by day. That means that a lot of the information we had when the virus first appeared is probably already out of date. So always check the date.
  • Has it been revised or updated? If the information was written some time ago, check that the author is regularly updating the information and look for the date of the revision.
  • Do the links work? Links to external sites that no longer work are a sign that the information has been around for a while and isn’t being reviewed and updated.

Relevance – does the info suit your needs?

Is the information relevant to you and the specific question/s you want answered? Ask yourself the following:

  • Does the information relate to my query or answer my question? For example if you’re looking for information about how COVID-19 may affect you, does the website/article/blog talk about people like you – your age, your specific health conditions, countries with similar health systems to yours or does it talk about a population of people in general?
  • Who has it been written for? An academic audience? Or everyday people like you and me? While many of us do read articles, documents etc written for an academic audience, unless you have the necessary education and knowledge, some of the content may be difficult to understand or may be misinterpreted.

Authority – where does the information come from?

When you’re reading information about important things like your health, you really do want it to come from an authoritative author/s. Depending on the context of what you’re reading, this expertise may be scientific or medical, or it may be the lived experience of someone with a musculoskeletal condition. So ask yourself:

  • Who’s the author? Are they known for their authority or credibility in this area? Are they qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there the possibility that a publisher or sponsor creates a conflict of interest or a level of bias? Or are they completely removed from the content?
  • Is there contact information, such as an email address so you can contact the author to ask questions or ask for the sources or basis for any claims they make?

Accuracy – how reliable, factual and truthful is the content?

This is a big one. In this world of fake news we really need to be asking ourselves if the information we’re reading and sharing is actually true. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Where does the information come from? Is it based on scientific studies or personal experience? Both are fine – depending on the context. For example if you’re looking for the latest information on treatments for COVID, you want the latest scientific articles, not the conjecture of a person with no medical or scientific background commenting on Facebook. However personal experience is great if you’re looking for helpful tips for coping with isolation from people just like you.
  • Is the information supported by evidence? And is this evidence credible? Has it been checked by experts in this area and published in a peer-reviewed journal?
  • Has the information been reviewed? In other words has the information been checked by someone else – or several other people, including experts – to ensure it’s accurate?
  • Can you find and verify this information in other places, such as reputable journals, websites or news outlets? Or is it only in one place.
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased? If it’s scientific, medical or health information, the language should be calm and the information presented in a balanced manner.
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors? This indicates that the work may have been rushed and has not been reviewed by anyone else.

Purpose – why was it created?

Why has the information been created and shared? Is it to inform you, teach you, sell you a product or service, entertain or persuade you? And is this clear? Ask yourself:

  • Is the purpose clear? Remember we can’t always take things at face value. For example an article about a treatment for joint pain may appear to be educating you about joint pain and how to best treat it. But the purpose of the information is to sell a product. Look for underlying interests.
  • Do the authors make their intentions or purposes clear? If they want you to buy their product they should be open about that. Or if they’re affiliated with an organisation that has specific views about treatment options, they should also be clear about that.
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda? And how does this affect the information??
  • Is the information objective and impartial? Again this is important when it comes to health and scientific info, but if the information is clearly a personal blog, then having subjective, personal info may be ok for your purposes.
  • Is the information biased? Are there personal, political, ideological, religious, cultural, commercial or institutional biases?

Come on, seriously?

I know, I know. It seems like a lot of work. But your health is important – so take a little extra time when you’re reading information that may affect your health.

And you don’t have to ask all of these questions for everything you read. Just think ‘CRAAP’ when reading and remember Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose, and you’ll get in the habit of asking these questions more quickly than you know.

By thinking critically about the health information you’re exposed to, you’ll be more informed and able to make decisions based on fact, not fake news.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain 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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16/Aug/2018

“You spin me right round, baby
Right round like a record, baby
Right round, round, round.” Dead or Alive 1985

If you’re all turned around and confused about My Health Record – what is it, is it secure, should I have one, should I opt-out – you’re not alone.

So we’ve put together some basic information to get you started. Now’s the time for you to get your research hat on and make some informed decisions about your health records. Because by the end of this year, all Australians will have a My Health Record, unless you opt-out by 15 November.

What is it?

My Health Record is the national digital health record system. It’s an online summary of your key health information. It aims to provide faster and more efficient care for you and your family.

You can decide what goes into your health record, and who can access it.

When you have a My Health Record, your health information can be viewed securely online, from anywhere, at any time. This is especially important in an emergency.

Your health record may include information such as:

  • allergies
  • medicines you’re taking
  • your medical conditions
  • test results (e.g. blood tests)
  • referrals to specialists
  • your Medicare claim history
  • if you’re an organ donor
  • reports on your scans and imaging (e.g. ultrasound or x-ray results)
  • emergency contact information.

You don’t need to be sick to benefit from having a My Health Record. It’s a convenient way to record and track your health information over time.

It will also mean you can access and view your own health records as soon as they’ve been uploaded.

It’s up to you

By the end of the year, everyone will have a My Health Record, unless you decide not to have one. So you have a choice to make.

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26/May/2018

It occurred to me today that I really don’t understand as much about my condition as I should. I see my doctor regularly, I take my meds, exercise and manage my pain as best as I can.

But I actually don’t understand exactly what’s happening to my body at the basic level. How my condition works, progresses, and the nitty gritty of potential causes.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to know the cellular level stuff – though some of you may want to know that – I just think I should know more, so that I can make informed decisions and play a more active role in the management of my health.

So where to start?

There’s information everywhere and it can be overwhelming. It can sometimes be difficult to work out what information is good and helpful, and what information is wrong, misleading and even dangerous.

As a general rule, libraries, your health professionals, peer support groups, reputable websites/social media sites and peak organisations like Musculoskeletal Australia can give you great information to help you learn about, and understand, your condition.

And the information they provide will help in different situations. For example, your doctor can provide evidence-based information about your condition and treatment options, whereas members of a peer support group can give you practical information about the experience of living with a chronic condition.

I also find that asking lots of questions and being sceptical is key. The information you get – from any source – could potentially affect your health, so you should be cautious.

Some questions I ask when looking at new health information:

  • Who wrote/gave me the information? Do they have the proper qualifications?
  • Where does the information come from? Does it have the scientific evidence to support it?
  • Is the information balanced? Does it give me a variety of options, or provide only one?
  • Does the information provide links to scientific evidence? Or does it only use personal anecdotes from satisfied customers or celebrity endorsements?
  • Is the information up-to-date?
  • Is the information regularly reviewed and updated?

Information is power. So use it to take control over your health and your body.

And if you get confused about any information you find, talk with your doctor. You can also contact our MSK Help Line on 1800 263 265 for information and support.

“Information can bring you choices and choices bring power – educate yourself about your options and choices. Never remain in the dark of ignorance.” – Joy Page




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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