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16/Jul/2020

“Whooooa, and don’t it feel good!”

Gotta love the eighties and music from bands like Katrina and the Waves, right?

And even though there’s only a glimmer of sunshine in Melbourne as I’m writing this and I’m a bit chilly from the quick walk I took round the block, I’m certainly feeling brighter than I did 15 minutes ago! Especially with the tune of that song stuck in my head 😁

While I was out I couldn’t help but notice how many people were also out for a stroll. It seems that everyone’s rediscovered walking during the pandemic.

This is one of the most positive things to have emerged due to COVID. People are pulling on their walking shoes and hitting the paths.

Family groups, deliriously happy dogs with their owners, single people with their headphones on – and everyone doing the COVID smile as you pass by. It’s lovely.

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

It’s a fantastic way to wind down after a long day of work. It can help you relax, especially if you’re feeling stressed or anxious because of the crazy state of the world. There are so many things we have no control over at the moment, but going for a walk? That’s something we can control.

The fresh air, the exercise, and listening to something interesting – your family, a friend, a podcast or music – it’s a great way to boost your mood.

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 manage your pain, 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.

And if 30 minutes most days isn’t achievable for you at the moment, set yourself a goal so that it becomes achievable. Think about your daily commitments, your level of fitness, your pain/fatigue levels and all of the other things that affect you day to day. Now create a SMART goal. That’s a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and has a Time-frame that works for you. Read our blog about goal setting for more info.

Walking tips

  • Wear comfortable, appropriate clothing and shoes. Your shoes should support your feet and have a non-slip sole. Clothes should be loose and/or stretchy enough to allow you to walk without restrictions. And don’t forget a hat on sunny days.
  • Warm up and cool down to prevent injuries or pain. While you might be eager to just get out there or you want to stay ahead of a group of people coming up behind you, it’s important that you take the time to let your muscles and joints warm up. And when you’re close to finishing your walk, take the time to slow it down and give your body the chance to cool down. Don’t forget to incorporate some basic stretches after you’ve warmed up and after you’ve cooled down. Check out these ones from the Arthritis Foundation (USA).
  • Remember to physically distance from other people when you’re out for your walk. Keep at least 1.5 metres between yourself and others. That doesn’t include members of your household 😊.
  • Choose quieter times to walk if you live in a busy, densely populated area. Try walking early in the morning, or in the evening, as long as it’s safe to do so.
  • Avoid the really popular parks and paths. It’s just too hard to maintain that 1.5 metres when you’re surrounded on all sides by people. It can also make your walk less enjoyable if there are crowds of people and lots of noise. Find parks and walking trails that are less crowded, or go at a different time of the day/week.
  • Make it social (if you can) – walk with a friend, your family, kids, the dog.
  • Listen to music, audio books, podcasts. Going for a walk by yourself gives you space for some alone time. Listen to something that interests you and relax as you get some exercise.
  • Make walking a part of your regular routine. Go at the same time each day – e.g. before/after work, after lunch.
  • Don’t go out if you’re sick – stay home and look after yourself. This is especially important if you’re experiencing any COVID symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath. Find out more about COVID symptoms on the Australian Government website.
  • Be mindful while you’re walking. Really take time to be in the moment and experience the walk. How do your feet feel as they connect with the ground? What can you smell? How does the wind feel on your face? This is an opportunity to really connect with what you’re doing and savour every moment.
  • Explore new places. Obviously follow the directions of the health officer in your state/territory, but if you’re able to explore new walking trails, parklands and suburbs, do it. As many of us have discovered during lockdown, walking the same paths day after day can become a little tedious. Mixing it up will make your walks more interesting. Comedian and radio host Tony Martin and his partner have spent more than 10 years exploring the streets of Melbourne, with the goal to walk every single street! While your goal doesn’t need to be this challenging, it may inspire you to pull out the old Melways or use your GPS to discover new and interesting places to walk.
  • Take a water bottle – it can be thirsty work! And depending how far you’re walking, consider taking a small backpack for your water bottle and any other supplies you think may need such as snacks, a map, band aids (just in case) and your phone.
  • Track your walking with a pedometer or fitness activity tracker. This’s a great way to see how you’ve progressed over time. And many of the walking apps allow you to challenge others, so if you can’t physically walk together, you can in spirit.
  • Increase the distance and intensity of your walks over time. To see the health benefits from your walking, you need to push yourself to go further and harder.
  • And if you catch the walking bug (that sounds a little gross but you know what I mean 😋), consider joining a walking or bushwalking group when restrictions ease. You’ll meet other people who love walking, explore new places together and get lots of tips and advice to make your walking more enjoyable and challenging.
  • And last but not least…walk with us! At least in spirit 😊 Our Walk in July is happening as we speak. People of all ‘walks’ of life (sorry for that), ages, conditions and locations are walking virtually whenever and wherever they want to raise awareness of musculoskeletal conditions and to raise funds for Musculoskeletal Australia. Join us and together we can make a difference to the lives of those who need it most!

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.

More to explore

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but just some of the sites that provide useful info about different walks and trails in Australia.


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16/Jul/2020

We’re used to having a certain amount of control and consistency in our lives. Before COVID our lives were fairly predictable and we generally knew what was coming. It made us feel secure and settled.

But at the moment it’s almost impossible to know what’s coming. Things are constantly changing and there’s so much we can’t control because of this new world we find ourselves in.

The problem is that when we feel like we have little or no control, we can start to feel more anxious and stressed. Apart from the significant impact this can have on our mental health, we know our physical health is negatively affected by periods of increased stress and anxiety. Our pain and fatigue becomes more intense, our sleep is affected, as is our concentration and blood pressure. We may also get more frequent headaches and stomach upsets.

So if we can take back some control, we won’t feel so powerless. This can help reduce the impact of stress and anxiety on our health.

But we’re in a pandemic – what can I control?

I’m glad you asked. While there are lots of big picture problems we can’t change, we can focus on the small, personal things that affect ourselves, our family and friends and our community.

Start with rituals and routines

Work – Hands up if your working from home attire is something you couldn’t wear to work even on a casual Friday? Many of us have relaxed into trackies, slippers and other comfy clothes. Unless we’re on a video chat, in which case our top half is more presentable 😁.

But this has the effect of blurring the lines between work and home life; just when we really need that distinction to give us work/life balance. And while I won’t go so far as to suggest we all get dressed in our pre-COVID work clothes (though some of you may do that) making a few simple changes may help solidify the lines between work and leisure.

In a recent article in The Age, Melissa Singer wrote that when she’s working she puts on her work shoes, even if she’s wearing comfortable, loungy clothes. At the end of the day she can kick them off. This is her signal that work is done for the day.

You can do similar things like putting on some perfume/aftershave, lipstick, a favourite work shirt, or putting your work away in a briefcase or work bag at the end of the day. They’re things we associate with work, and when we’ve finished work, we should go through our end of work day routine.

And if you can, put your work out of sight so it’s not in view. Even if that means putting a sheet over it. Create a new work routine that helps you put work aside so you can relax and enjoy your leisure and home time.

Daily routines – It’s important during times of change and uncertainty to have a daily routine that you stick to. It will help you feel more in control of your life and what’s happening at the moment.

Your routine is very specific to you and your life, and will be affected by what you need to do in your day, if you have people depending on you, if you’re working from home, have school work (or need to help others with school work) etc.

It might help to sit down with the members of your household and create a calendar that includes everyone’s commitments and needs. Things to think about when creating your calendar:

  • Get everyone involved. It’s vital that everyone feels that their needs matter and they’re being heard.
  • Include specific time for fun stuff, exercise and connecting with family and friends.
  • Keep your weekends separate – this is really important so that you can get your chores done (sadly the laundry doesn’t stop because of a pandemic) and you have time to do creative stuff, exercise, and get a break from the workday routine.
  • Be very clear on your hours. It’s really easy to lose track of time. If you find this happening, set reminders on your phone to alert you.

Birthdays, weddings, graduations, funerals – These are big events for us all. They make us feel connected with our people. And while there may be some restrictions depending on where you live, it’s important we continue to mark these occasions in whatever way we can. In person, via video or phone. We can send celebratory or condolence cards; we can even go the extra mile and make our own 😊 We can write letters and actually put down on paper how much people mean to us. I can guarantee that this will mean so much to the recipient 💗.

Things are different, but there’s no reason we can’t still connect when it comes to the important occasions in our life. Or just on a random Tuesday 😄

Our health

We need to continue to look after ourselves. We have musculoskeletal conditions, so we need to continue to manage them as best we can. That means staying in touch with your healthcare team, alerting them to any changes or concerns, exercising, getting your regular tests done when they’re due, managing your weight and looking after your mental health.

Many of us have other health conditions as well. So we need to manage those too. Looking after your health is a really tangible thing you can do to feel in control in an upside down world.

The COVID three

This would be the worst band name ever, but it’s stuck in my head from all the ads in the media. Which I guess is the point 😉.

We can control how we react to the pandemic and reduce our risk of becoming infected, or spreading the virus, by following what Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth calls the COVID 3.

Wash your hands, physically distance yourself from others and consider downloading the COVIDsafe app. Stay home if you’re unwell and get tested. Cough and/or sneeze into your elbow. Consider wearing a mask. Use hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to soap and water. And follow the advice of the chief health officer in your state or territory. Wait, hang on, that’s 10 things 😉.

Oh well, just stay safe people. Stay kind. And look after yourself and others.

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.

More to explore

Reference

  • Even behind the curtain of Zoom, the show must go on
    The Age, 9 July 2020

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02/Jul/2020

We’ve been noticing an increasing number of posts on social media and calls to our Help Line from people with musculoskeletal conditions, autoimmune conditions or with weakened immune systems who are feeling really anxious and vulnerable at the moment.

In the general population there’s a giddy exhilaration about restrictions easing. Unfortunately this seems to have led many people to forget all of the good things they’ve been doing over the past few months to flatten the curve. People are gathering in large numbers and forgetting all about physical distancing and giving others plenty of space.

That’s scary because most of us are still susceptible to the virus. And if you’re more at risk than others, it can make you feel really helpless and exposed.

So what can you do to look after yourself?

Acknowledge your feelings

It’s a crappy, crazy time, so recognise that and allow yourself to feel frightened or anxious, cry, have a freak out, and then move on. Don’t bottle these feelings up or pretend everything’s fine. All of our feelings are valid and important – you don’t have to put on a happy face or turn that frown upside down. You need to acknowledge how you really feel.

However if it feels like these feelings are taking over and they’re all you can focus on, talk to someone – your partner, a trusted family member or friend, your doctor or a mental health specialist.

Talk to your doctor

Make sure you keep your healthcare team up-to-date with how you’re doing – both physically and mentally. Continue to follow your treatment plan as prescribed, and if you have any issues contact your team immediately. If attending health appointments in person feels unsafe, use telehealth if you can. Obviously there are some appointments that will require you to attend in person – for example blood tests and scans – however there are many appointments you can attend from the comfort and security of your own home.

It’s also important that you don’t change or stop your medications without talking to your doctor, regardless of what you may see online or in the news. A recent survey of more than 500 patients attending Monash Health’s Rheumatology Department found that over half were concerned that their medications would increase their risk of getting COVID-19, and more than 75% were concerned that their medications would increase the severity of the disease if they did get it. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about medications and COVID, so if you’re worried, contact your doctor and get their expert advice.

Stay home

If you’re able to stay home, do it. The best way to avoid contact with someone who may have the virus is to stay at home. This is the advice of our health officers, especially if you’re in an area that has outbreaks. And quite frankly it’s so cold in parts of the country at the moment, it feels much better inside than out!

So stay home when you can. Use telehealth to access your health professionals, go online to order your shopping and have it delivered (or have a family member/friend pick it up for you and leave it at your door), stay in touch with your people using video chat and phone calls, use exercise apps or online videos to keep active. Technology allows us to stay connected while staying home.

Work from home if you can

This will help reduce your risk of coming into contact with someone with COVID and other contagious illnesses like the flu. However if you can’t work from home, your workplace is required to have in place safeguards to protect you including physical distancing measures, access to soap and water and/or hand sanitisier, and clean and disinfected work spaces. For more information visit the Safe Work Australia website.

Keep practising good hygiene

This is just something we need to live with from now on. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds), use hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to soap and water, cough or sneeze into your elbow, throw tissues into the bin after use and wash your hands immediately, clean and disinfect your surfaces with soap and water and a disinfectant. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because organic matter and dirt can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs.

Wear a mask

When you do have to venture out, consider wearing a mask, especially if you have to catch public transport or you need to go to a location where physical distancing may be difficult. Read our updated blog about face masks for more info.

Get vaccinated

We’re all being urged to get the flu vaccination this year. This pandemic is overlapping with our flu season and while flu numbers in Australia are low due to our physical distancing measures, this may change. So see your doctor (if you haven’t already) and get your flu vax.

Ask for help

People living with health conditions are tough and resilient. We want to be able to do everything ourselves. However sometimes that’s not an option and we need to ask for help. This can be really hard and can feel like we’re giving away our independence. However this is a global pandemic – so asking for help when you need it is the smart thing to do – especially if it helps you look after your physical and mental health.

Get support from others who understand

There are some great peer support groups who meet online. You can chat with them, share your worries and concerns, get useful info and gain support from people who understand exactly what you’re going through. Being a part of these groups also give you the opportunity to give back and provide support to others.

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.

More to explore


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25/Jun/2020

This strange time we’re living through has forced us to live smaller. SARS-CoV-2 is going to hang around for quite some time, so our way of living will likely remain on the small scale for the foreseeable future.

And as we’ve seen with the spike in active cases in Victoria, restrictions can be eased and they can be tightened again. Trips overseas are out and trips interstate are dependent on state borders being open. Even travelling across our own state may be subject to restrictions if outbreaks continue.

It’s easy to feel a little despondent about the whole situation. It’s been a hard slog with no end in sight.

So it’s important we take some time to sit back and take stock. We’ve adapted to isolation and the massive changes in our world. We’ve been creative and done things that we couldn’t even imagine we would’ve done this time last year. We should give ourselves credit for that and continue to discover the small joys in life.

Like having a jigsaw on the go on the kitchen or coffee table that everyone adds to as they walk past. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they’ve been doing this…and how much satisfaction they get when they complete a tricky 1,000 piece puzzle.

Or discovering the parks, paths and until now unexplored areas in our neighbourhoods. Foot power and pedal power has us discovering many hidden treasures we never knew existed before COVID.

We’ve enjoyed cooking and creating meals together. Discovering an interesting recipe, trying new ingredients, and taking time to sit down together and talk, laugh and have fun. With the change in our routines, and the lack of social/sporting/school/work gatherings, we have a little more time to break away from the mundane meals of the past, at least occasionally. Turn the TV off, put some music on, enjoy the company and the meal.

We’ve hauled the dusty board games out of the back of cupboards and spent hours playing and enjoying time together…unless it’s Monopoly. It always seems to start well, then ends in tears 😁. We’re reading, planting vegie gardens, catching up on new TV shows, enjoying a cup of tea in the garden, doing the crossword together – basically living much more simply.

We’re catching up with friends and family with long phone calls and video chats. I think this’s been one of the best things that has come out of the pandemic. Without the distractions of work, social obligations, kids sports and the busyness of pre-COVID life, we have a bit more time to catch up and really talk. This has been wonderful 😊.

And for those of us with a chronic condition, being able to stay home has allowed us to feel safe from the virus, but has also given us the time to reevaluate how we’re travelling. For example, how’s our pain management? Do we need to tweak something, try something new? Are we looking after our mental health? Should we try some mind-body techniques such as mindfulness or guided imagery? This pandemic has paused the world in some ways, but it’s given us an opportunity to check our health and wellbeing.

This time will pass. It’s going to take a while, but we can adapt. We’ve been doing it for months, and we can continue to do it. And rediscovering the small joys in our world will help us get through.

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.

More to explore


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18/Jun/2020

As a species we’re social creatures. We need our tribe – whether it’s a large extended family group and lots of friends, a small intimate group of nearest and dearest, or somewhere in between. We need our connections.

I think that’s one of the hardest things we’ve had to deal with during this pandemic. We’ve been forced to change how we connect with others. We kept away from our people for months, and now that we can gather, we’re told to keep a distance, don’t touch, hug or shake hands. It feels so unnatural.

That’s the insidiousness of this virus. It’s infiltrated our world and affected the very fabric of our connectedness.

I need to make a confession – I’m incredibly sad as I write this blog. My aunt died today. She was a beloved mother, sister, grandmother, aunt and – like me – a crazy cat lady. She’s been unwell for quite some time, and I haven’t been able to see her for months. With isolation and the very real risk of spreading the virus to someone who was already so unwell, it was not a risk we could take.

And so she died, this wonderful, kind, most incredibly well-read woman. Without all of her family around her. And I’m so very sad.

I know I’m not unique in this situation. So many people have died during this pandemic – due to COVID-19 as well as the many other reasons people leave our world every single day. But sitting at home on a cold Sunday afternoon, I can’t help but reflect on how terribly sad this whole situation is.

We’ve missed, and will continue to miss, our celebrations and milestones. Weddings have been postponed. Babies have been born with far less fanfare than would normally happen. Special birthdays have been and gone without the usual fuss. Students have finished courses, aced exams or have mastered a difficult skill without the jubilant gathering of family and friends to celebrate. And funerals have occurred with only a small number of mourners allowed to attend in person.

And it’s not only the milestones and celebrations we’re missing. It’s the small events, the little encounters that go to the very heart of who we are. The big events are important, but the small things, the everyday incidental stuff with workmates, neighbours, friends, family – they’re the things that make our lives rich.

So we need to find ways to ensure our milestones, gatherings, phone calls, video chats and every day encounters carry as much joy, love, sadness, real emotion and connection as they possibly can.

Celebrate and bask in the little things. Share your day – the highs and lows with your partner/kids/closest friend – and really listen as they do the same. Take time to sit and reflect on what’s been happening in your life and those close to you. Even though it may feel like life is moving slowly at the moment, it’s moving quickly – can you believe it’s almost the end of June? – and so much can happen in a day, a week, a month. Don’t let these moments pass you by.

Tell those close to you how much they mean to you. Extend that support and kindness beyond your own bubble to those you encounter at the supermarket, when you’re driving, talking with your child’s teacher, or when you’re in a work meeting. We’re all dealing with all kinds of stuff – big and small – so let’s discard the petty annoyances and frustrations.

We’re still some way from finding a vaccine or treatment for this virus. It’s vital we continue to support and care for each other in this new normal we live in.

Life is short, and although it’s changed so dramatically, we have so much to be thankful for.

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.

Crisis support

If this article has raised some issues with you or you feel like you need help during this stressful time, there’s help available. Contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention. https://www.lifeline.org.au/about-lifeline/contact-us

More to explore

It’s okay to feel sad
Better Health Channel

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash


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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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28/May/2020

As we come to the end of May 2020, more and more restrictions are easing all over the country. And we’re being told more restrictions will be lifted in June and July. Yay!!

While we’re all understandably excited at the prospect of doing the things we took for granted pre-COVID, there are things we need be aware of. The fact is we’re not out of the woods. And we won’t really return to anything resembling the old ‘normal’ until we have a vaccine. 

So as you make your way out of the front door, blinking into the bright lights of the outside world, make sure you’re ready for it so you and your family stay safe, and you help keep the rest of the community safe.

What’s up with your hair? And what are you wearing?!?

OK so this is a little silly, but for many of us it’s been MONTHS since we’ve had a haircut or had a professional give our hair some TLC. So we’re looking a little wild and woolly. Add in the lack of access to beauty salons and we’re a weird, hairy mess – picture Cousin It from the Addams Family 😂. And for many of us we’ll need scissors and a crow bow to get the trackies and slippers off, because staying at home and trying not to spend too much on the heating bill has led to comfort and warmth winning over style and fashion. So maybe check yourself in a mirror before you venture out 😂

But seriously apart from sorting out our general dishevelment there are some important things to be aware of as our COVID isolation starts winding down and restrictions continue to lift:

Hygiene

It’s still incredibly important. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, use hand sanitisers, cough and sneeze into your elbow and avoid touching your face. For a refresher read our hygiene 101 blog for more info.

Physical distancing

We’re able to go to more places and see more people, however physical distancing is still vital. Most of us are still susceptible to this highly infectious virus, so we need to maintain at least 1.5 metres between ourselves and others when we’re out in public. This can sometimes be a bit tricky. With the loosening of restrictions, and because people have felt cooped up for so long, LOTS of people are going out. So you need to ask yourself when you pull into the shopping centre carpark and it’s full, or you can see a line of cars heading to the park you’re aiming for. Ask yourself if you’ll really be able to maintain a safe distance between yourself and others. And if the answer’s no, can you go somewhere else instead? Or do something else? Or come back at another, less busy time?

Gatherings

We’ve missed our family and friends, and although it was helpful, technology – with all the drop outs and weird pauses – can only do so much. We want to BE with our people. And we’re now allowed to do that in greater numbers. But you need to do a few things if/when your gather:

  • Know the relevant guidelines for your state/territory. It’s different all over the country, so it’s easy to get confused. So check the COVID-19 website applicable to where you live.
  • Only visit or have visitors if you’re healthy and well. Even if you’re chomping at the bit and you’re pretty sure it’s only a sore throat because of your allergies, or you think you’re feeling fatigued because of a late night/your MSK condition/home schooling, don’t take the chance. There may be a slim possibility that you actually have the virus and spread it to others – so don’t be that person.
  • No hugs, kisses or handshakes. This is a tough one, especially if you haven’t seen loved ones in ages, but resist the close contact. And it may seem lame but try the elbow bump or foot tap greeting. Better still, make up your own family greeting. Get the kids involved and make it something fun and uniquely yours.

Your mental health

It’s been such a crazy time, and we’ve been isolated in our own cocoons for so long, many of us may be a little anxious or scared about going out. That’s completely understandable. But we do need to go out – for work, groceries, social connection, exercise, healthcare appointments – we need it all.

However if you do feel anxious about heading out into the world, it’s important to understand why you’re feeling this way and then look for ways you can manage it. For example if you’re freaked out by the crowds at the supermarket, try and do your shopping at quieter times. If you’re concerned about using public transport, follow the capacity restrictions for the specific mode of transport, wash your hands after using it (or use hand sanitiser if you have it) and avoid touching your face.

The important thing is to start easing your way back into the world. But if you’re having real issues getting out, talk with your doctor. You may need some professional support. You can do this via telehealth from the comfort of your own home.

There will be outbreaks

That’s inevitable, but we can all do our best to reduce the risk of an outbreak with good hygiene, physical distancing and staying home if you feel unwell.

Exercise venues

Pools, indoor and outdoor gyms and fitness centres are also reopening. This’s great news. We all need a variety of exercises for our general health and wellbeing, and to help us manage our musculoskeletal condition and pain. There are strict guidelines for all public venues about maximum numbers, physical distancing and hygiene that exercise facilities will need to be following. So if your venue hasn’t contacted you to let you know how they’re keeping their clients and staff safe, contact them and ask.

Staying safe with a musculoskeletal condition

If you have arthritis, back pain or osteoporosis, you may need to be careful about a few other things.

  • With more places opening up, venue owners are trying to find ways to enforce physical distancing and capacity measures. However some of the makeshift barriers being used may cause a trip hazard for some of us – because they’re low and not very brightly coloured – for example the humble milk crate or cardboard box. They seem to be a handy partition used in many places to limit the number of people in a space and to direct the flow of traffic. But they’re not always easy to see, especially if there’s poor lighting or you’re hurrying – so be careful of trip hazards and other obstacles when you’re out and about to reduce your risk of falling and getting hurt.
  • You may need to stand in queues, at the supermarket, hardware store and other public venues that are reopening, as they all have a maximum number of people they can let in at one time. This can cause or exacerbate pain and fatigue for many people with musculoskeletal conditions. So wear comfy shoes (including orthotics if you have/need them), grab your walking aid, your shopping list (a foggy brain makes remembering almost impossible) and your shopping buggy/bags. And be kind to yourself as you may feel tired and exhausted for some time after your trip. If your battery was already low before you tackled this, it’s may take some time to feel yourself again.

With restrictions lifting all over the country, we’re getting excited about broadening our horizons beyond our own front doors. But we need to take responsibility and be careful. We’ve done really well at minimising the impact of this virus on Australians – and we don’t want to slide backwards.

So stay informed, follow the guidance of the government health officers, and we’ll get through this next phase of the COVID journey.

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

For many of us our pain is always there – sometimes in the background and at other times it’s very much in the front of our minds. It’s a constant – just like taxes 😒 Even with a pandemic causing so much chaos and uncertainty, our pain persists, it’s always there.

And quite frankly it’s a pain in the arse. It hurts. It’s exhausting. And it’s invisible.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare last week released their latest report Chronic pain in Australia. It highlights that 1 in 5 of us lives with chronic pain. So next time you’re standing in a physically distant queue at the shops or taking a walk around the park – consider the fact that 1 in 5 of the people see you around you is also living with pain. It’s a massive problem, but there are things we can all do to manage our pain effectively.

Know your pain and yourself

It’s so important when you live with a chronic condition that you understand it. Learn as much about your condition as you can so that you can take an active role in managing it, including the pain associated with it. For example, what makes your pain better? What makes it worse? Do you tend to overdo things when you’re feeling great and end up paying for it over the next couple of days with increased pain? Or when you’re experiencing a flare and your pain is worse – do you get anxious, and everything becomes negative and too hard?

Knowing these things – really understanding how your pain affects you physically, emotionally and behaviourally – will help you manage your pain and your condition better, even in this time of crazy COVID.

Tackle the big three – exercise, eat, sleep, repeat

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding my exercise, diet and sleep have all taken a hit due to the pandemic and iso. Not being able to get to the gym, changes to work and my normal routine and stress has really impacted how and when I’m eating, sleeping and exercising. And not in a positive way.

This has had a very noticeable effect on my pain levels. If you’re experiencing this too, acknowledging it is the first step to changing things. So I can’t get to the gym – there are other ways to be active. So my routine has changed and as a result so has my diet. I can manage that. Stress and pain is impacting my sleep? I’ve managed that before – I can do it again.

It’s all about finding the right mindset. This is a strange, new normal we’re living in. And it’s going to change and evolve as we continue through 2020. We have no roadmap for what’s been, and what’s to come – so we need to do the best we can to change and adapt to the constantly shifting landscape.

Get help

OK, that all sounded sooooo easy, right?? Nope.

We may be able to change and adapt to some things but there will be times when we need to ask for help. From our family and friends, from our doctor, physio, psychologist. Whether it’s medications or physiotherapy to directly manage the pain, or asking a family member to carry the heavy laundry basket to the clothesline, or talking with a friend about your frustrations – whatever it is, there’s help available. You just need to acknowledge the fact that you need it and reach out. And remember the nurses on our Help Line are just a call or email away.

Use your mind

It’s a powerful tool. You can use it for distraction, mindfulness, relaxation, visualisation and guided imagery. None of these things will take your pain away completely, but they can provide temporary relief while you do a painful task, try to fall asleep, or wait for your pain medication to kick in.

‘P’ yourself – plan, prioritise and pace

We’re often our own worst enemy. We do too much when we’re feeling great, and end up feeling rubbish for hours/days afterwards. Something ‘simple’ we can do to prevent this from happening time and again is to plan, prioritise and pace ourselves. First plan – what do you need to do today? Write it down. Now prioritise. How much of those zillion things do you really need to do? Often things we see as hugely important aren’t. And do you need to do them yourself? Can someone else do it? Now pace yourself. It’s not a race – so be generous with your time, spread your jobs over the day and build in space for rest breaks.

Look after your mental health

Living with persistent pain can sometimes be a roller-coaster of emotions. It’s perfectly natural that from time to time to feel sad, worried, angry, anxious, depressed or frustrated. Add a pandemic, and it’s no wonder many of us are feeling as if our worlds have turned upside down and inside out. It’s important that you acknowledge these feelings. You may want to write in a journal, talk with a family member or close friend or talk with a counsellor or psychologist. Don’t ignore these feelings or keep them bottled up.

Your GP can refer you to a psychologist if needed on a GP Mental Health Management Plan. At the moment because of COVID-19 you can arrange to speak to a psychologist via telehealth (over the phone or a video call).

Be kind

To yourself and to others. It’s an unprecedented, really strange time and we’re all doing the best we can. So be kind to yourself – you’ll experience ups and downs, stumbling blocks, and barriers that get in your way. And some days you’ll need to work really hard just to keep moving. So give yourself a break. And remember 1 in 5 people are living with invisible chronic pain. And even more people are dealing with all kinds of stuff we can’t even imagine. So be kind to the people you encounter. It makes us all feel so much better than the alternative.

More to explore

Our nurse Clare discusses some simple things you can do to manage pain while at home in isolation, including pacing activities, exercise, getting a good night’s sleep and heat and cold packs.

We also have some great blogs to give you more tips and info about managing pain:


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07/May/2020

Hands up if you’re feeling tired at the moment? Or if you’re too weary to raise your hand, just a brief nod will do it 😉 It seems like we’re a nation of tired people at the moment (😪).

Why is this? We’re not going out like we used to, to the movies, restaurants, family gatherings, to see friends, sports events, or take the kids to all of their extra-curricular activities. We should be swimming in time and feeling relaxed and rested, right?

Ah, no.

We’re stressed

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but we’re going through unprecedented times. This pandemic is causing massive disruptions to our lives, our families, our work and our routines. This constant uncertainty causes us to feel stressed. All the time.

When we’re stressed our bodies release adrenaline. It’s so we can react to a crisis, the old ’fight or flight’ response. But when the stress is constant, as many of us are feeling at the moment, this has an effect on our health – including making us feel physically and mentally tired.

There are lots of things you can do to manage stress. By understanding what’s causing your stress, you can start to manage it. This may include things like developing a new routine (and sticking to it), exercising, talking with your family about how you’re feeling, finding ways to relax, making sure you’re eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water, getting a good night’s sleep and avoiding excessive use of alcohol and other drugs.

We’re staying indoors more

Because of restrictions we’re staying inside our homes more. So we’re not getting exposed to as much sunlight as we normally would. A lack of sunlight causes the brain to produce more of the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy.

To deal with this, schedule time every day to go outside for a walk or stroll in your yard, open your blinds or curtains as soon as you get up and expose yourself to as much sunlight as you can. It’ll help you feel more awake and improve your mood. Just think how much better you feel after being stuck indoors when you get out into the sun. It makes you feel so much more energetic and alive! So this one’s a no brainer. We just have to make time to do it.

We’re sleeping less (or more) than usual

Let’s face it, since this all started our usual everyday routines have been shot to pieces. Work, home life, family, socialising, shopping – it’s all so different at the moment. When you add stress to the mix, our sleep is often affected.

You may find you’re sleeping less than usual because you’re working long hours to catch up on work after spending the day home schooling the kids, or you’re watching more TV and spending more hours online, or stress is causing you to feel more pain and you’re having issues sleeping through the night.

Or you may be sleeping more – trying to rid yourself of this constant feeling of tiredness, or because you’re bored, or because it’s cold outside and you’re feeling cosy and warm indoors, or because you’re feeling sad. Not enough sleep, too much sleep and poor quality sleep will all increase how tired you feel.

That’s why it’s important that you stick to a sleep schedule – even on the weekends. Get out of bed in the morning and go to bed at night, at the same time every day. Your body needs this regularity for your internal clock to function properly, and to help you fall asleep and wake up more easily and feeling more refreshed.

And if you’re regularly finding it difficult to sleep or get out of bed because you’re feeling really sad or down, it’s a really good idea to talk with someone about this, whether it’s family, a close friend or your doctor. Please don’t ignore this.

We’re exercising less

Many of us are finding we’re exercising less because we don’t have access to our warm water exercise classes, tai chi, gyms and exercise groups. Not getting enough exercise can make you feel sluggish and tired. If this continues for some time, we start to get out of shape and feel less inclined to exercise. So it’s really important to make exercise – whether it’s online videos and apps, walking, dusting off your old exercise DVDs, or dancing around the living room – an essential part of your everyday routine. And get the family involved. Everyone needs to be exercising and staying active for our physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re home alone, use a video app to call a friend and exercise together. You’ll find you’ll feel more energised and happier when you’re exercising regularly.

We live with chronic conditions

Apart from all of above affecting how tired we’re feeling, we live with chronic musculoskeletal conditions and other health issues. These often cause us to feel fatigued. Many of our medications and living with chronic pain can also make us feel excessively tired. When you add a pandemic on top of that, the unique issues you’re facing – how the virus may affect you, worry about being more at risk, how to safely access your healthcare team, navigating telehealth – it can heighten you’re feelings of fatigue.

Many of the things we’ve looked at – such as establishing a routine, getting adequate sleep, eating well, exercising and staying connected with your family, friends and work colleagues will help you with some of these issues.

You can also get help from your GP and from the nurses on our Help Line. Contact a peer support group or go online and connect with others dealing with similar things. Even just talking with others who know exactly how you’re feeling can help you feel less isolated.

We may need to talk with our doctor

Finally if you’re concerned that your tiredness is due to more than just the reasons listed above, it might be worth talking with your doctor about it. Your tiredness may be caused by other things like vitamin deficiency (for example iron and vitamin D), side effects of your medications, feeling sad, anxious or depressed or it may indicate another health issue. So make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor – either in person or via a telehealth consultation.

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.

More to explore

Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash


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07/May/2020

Anxiety and COVID-19

Have you noticed how everything seems heightened at the moment? Our stress, fear, boredom, tech issues (meh) and random acts of kindness. Everything we feel or experience seems so much bigger.

We’re having to find ways to manage this “big-ness” as we journey through COVID-19 and isolation. But that’s cool…

I told myself I was ok. Dealing with the same old stuff everyone is dealing with – except home schooling (phew) – I’m in serious awe of the parents out there doing the home schooling deal – wow!

Anyway I told myself and everyone else how fine I was. Busy, busy, busy. Lots to do. I’m working, I have a wonderful supportive partner, I have a roof over my head, I have food and toilet paper. I’m fine.

And then I wasn’t.

Like a lot of people I struggle from time to time with anxiety. And it’s been getting a little tricky lately keeping it under control. I was having sleep issues, stressing about things outside of my control, being snappy to those around me. But I told myself I was fine.

Until the day I took a break from work and went for a short walk. My heart started racing and I had to wrap my arms around myself because I felt like I was about to fly into a million pieces. I hurried home and got back to work. And I ignored it.

From this fragile state it only took a slight incident to send me over the edge and I fell apart. That’s when I realised I wasn’t fine, like I’d been telling myself. I wasn’t ok. I was a mess.

So it was time I actually started practising what I preach. I needed to take care of me.

It’s crazy – I understand the importance of self-care but I was just “too busy”, “too dedicated”, “too indispensable” to stop. That’s what my anxiety was telling me….”busy, busy, busy, can’t stop, must keep going, work all the hours”. So my regular exercise, healthy diet, relaxation, staying hydrated, making time for family and friends, managing my chronic condition and health in general – all of it – had gone out the window weeks ago.

But my body had decided we’d had enough.

I took a day off work (!) and went for a long walk in the park near my home. I called my adorable five year old niece and chatted about the things that were happening in her life and told her about the antics of my two crazy cats just to hear her laugh. I rode my bike in the sun. I had a bubble bath and read my long neglected book. I called a friend. And I took time with my partner to relax, cuddle and have a quiet evening with no screens allowed.

I’m feeling much better for having taken this time. I’m not 100%, but I’m working to manage my time, my stress and anxiety better than I had been.

I decided to write this blog about anxiety because I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who’s “fine”.

We’re living through extraordinary times that have come out of nowhere. We weren’t able to prepare ourselves for it, because we’ve not had to deal with anything like it before.

We exist in a new “normal” that’s anything but normal. So it’s easy for anxiety, stress, frustration, fear, loneliness and all kinds of emotions to sneak up on us, and absolutely blindside us.

We need to give ourselves a break and remember we’re doing the best we can.

But we also need to be honest when we ask ourselves if we’re ok. Don’t just toss out the automatic “I’m fine”. Many of us are so used to doing that when someone asks us about our musculoskeletal condition. It’s like a reflex – “I’m fine”.

So ask yourself “am I really ok?”. Not just on the surface, but deep down where we hide the stuff we don’t want anyone else to see.

And if you’re not, what can you do to look after yourself? Is it putting in place or updating a self-care plan? Is it asking for help – from family, friends or your doctor? Is it talking with your boss so you can take some time off to rest, relax and rediscover what’s important? Is it joining an online peer support group or catching up with friends? Is it setting goals or creating a new routine that makes time for self-care? Whatever it is, it’s important that you’re honest with yourself and others and if you’re not ok, say it. Don’t ignore it.

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.

More to explore

Photo by Grace Madeline on Unsplash




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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