READ OUR BLOG



goals_2022.jpg
19/Jan/2022

How to set an achievable goal for 2022

“Life is short, fragile and does not wait for anyone. There will never be a perfect time to pursue your dreams and goals. ” – Unknown.

Did you start 2022 with a goal? Eating more healthfully, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, learning a new skill, changing careers, buying a house?

If so, you’re not alone. Lots of us start a new year with lofty goals, wanting to start fresh. It’s like the first day of school when you’d open a brand new notebook, and it felt so bright and shiny with endless possibilities (aaah, new stationery 😉).

And we start on our path with gusto – we try new recipes, visit the Quit website, pull the walking shoes out of the cupboard. But then life interferes. A tough day at work leads to takeaway for dinner instead of cooking. You’re out with mates, and everyone’s smoking, so you do too. You wake up exhausted and toss your walking shoes back into the cupboard. The enthusiasm for achieving your goal wanes.

So why bother with goals? What’s the point if they can be hard to achieve?

Simply put, having goals gives us control in a world where so much is out of our control. They provide us with something to work towards, and give us the steps we need to get there.

So let’s look at some simple ways you can live your life and still achieve your goals.

First – let’s address the elephant in the room. It starts with ‘C’ and ends in ‘OVID’.

We’re living in a global pandemic, and we’re a little tired. Two years of pandemic fatigue, fear, stress, and worry mean our physical and mental energy levels are lower than they’ve ever been.

These feelings can’t be ignored or pushed aside in order to achieve your goals. They need to be acknowledged and factored into your goal setting.

Make your goals meaningful

When setting a goal, think of something important to you and not something you think you should do. You’re more likely to be successful if you aim to do something that makes you happy and has meaning. And you’ll be more likely to recover from stumbles or overcome obstacles if your goal is significant to you.

Start with small goals

When we set ourselves a goal we often begin with great excitement, but then something – pain, work, illness, family life, pandemic-life – gets in the way. However if we create small goals, we’re putting ourselves in a better position to succeed.

For example, say you want to read more books. Great! There are so many amazing books out there. But having the goal of reading a book a week may not be realistic (been there done that 😆).

A more feasible way to read more books is to read a chapter in the evening. Or read for 15 minutes in the morning. You’re still reading, but it’s a smaller, more realistic goal.

Be flexible

If you’re having difficulties achieving your goal, ask yourself why? If it has meaning for you and it’s realistic, what’s the barrier? If we use the reading example again, it could be that you can’t find the time to sit and read. Or your eyes are tired after staring at a computer screen all day.

A way to solve this problem could be to listen to audio books. You can do this while doing other things, and your tired eyes don’t have to focus on the words. You can access many titles free through your public library, or you can access a subscription service such as Audible.

The point is that if you’re flexible, there are ways you can still achieve your goal if the original plan didn’t work. Discuss it with family or friends if you can’t think of solutions. Talking through the issue can help you gain some clarity. And the support and advice from the people who care for us is invaluable.

Be kind

When working towards a goal, it’s realistic to expect that there’ll be some trips and stumbles along the way. When this happens, be kind to yourself. When things don’t go according to our plans, we can be very critical. So avoid berating yourself. Instead, look at the stumble as a chance to learn. What happened? Why did it happen? How can you avoid it happening again? Does your goal need some adjustment to make it more achievable?

Another thing to remember is that we’re all different. So don’t compare yourself with others. This can be tough when you’re surrounded by carefully curated, touched up and filtered images, stories and posts about people who seem to have it all together, while you feel like a red hot mess (hmm, that may be just me?). But comparing yourself to others won’t help you achieve your goal and can make you feel like you’re failing somehow. So avoid these comparisons, be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for doing your best.

Be SMART

A common acronym used for goal setting is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timeframe. It can help you create a goal that works for you and your life.

Be specific. What is it you’re aiming for? Ask yourself the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, why. What do you want to accomplish? Why? When and where will you do this? Who can help you?

Let’s use meditation as an example to create a SMART goal. You enjoy meditating. It helps you manage your pain and deal with anxiety. So in 12 months, you’d like to be meditating for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

You need to be able to measure your goal so that you know when/if you’ve achieved it. Meditating more often isn’t a measurable goal, but committing to meditating for a specific amount of time in a day is.

Next, your goal needs to be achievable for you. It should challenge you and stretch you a little but still be attainable, especially considering the uncertainties of the world we’re living in.

Planning to meditate for 60 minutes every day probably isn’t achievable, especially if you’re just starting out. But committing to meditate 10 minutes a day, twice a week is. You can increase the amount of time and the number of days you meditate as you progress.

You need to be realistic, and your goal needs to be doable – for you and your own circumstances. Meditating 10 minutes a day, twice a week is realistic because you enjoy it, and it helps you relax. You’ve discussed it with your family, and they understand that they can’t interrupt you during this time. You’ve organised a quiet space to meditate, and you’ve downloaded a meditation app that you like. You’re committed, and you’ve put in place the things you need to make your goal possible. That makes your goal realistic.

Finally, your goal should have a timeframe. In this example, your goal is to meditate for 30 minutes, 5 days a week in 12 months. You’ll be starting at 10 minutes a day, twice a week increasing this over the coming 12 months. A timeframe gives you motivation and an endpoint to work towards.

Sticking to it

Once you’ve decided on your goal, write it down, along with the steps you need to get there. Stick it on your fridge, bathroom mirror or somewhere you’ll see it often. Refer to it regularly. And remember, if you have any hiccups along the way, that’s okay. Just don’t give up. Learn from what happened and move on.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” —Neil Gaiman.

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.

More to explore


summer.jpg
19/Jan/2022

by Anne Lloyde, MSK Help Line Manager

We’re well and truly into summer, so we need to think about ways to stay safe, keep cool but still have fun in the warmer weather.

Taking care of your skin in the sun – it’s a balancing act

We all know the ‘slip, slop, slap, seek, slide‘ message and the importance of protecting ourselves from the summer sun. After all, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UV) is the primary cause of skin cancer, and Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. But sun exposure is essential for bone health. Sunlight is our best source of vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium for strong bones.

It’s important to expose your hands, face and arms to the sun every day. The amount of time you need to do this depends on where you live, the time of the year, and your skin’s complexion. Healthy Bones Australia has developed a chart to help you work this out.

It’s also important to be aware of the dangers of sun damage and how you can expose your skin to the sun safely. SunSmart has a free app to help you determine the safe times to expose your skin to the sun. You can find out more about the app and download it here.

Sun sensitivity can affect people with various musculoskeletal conditions, including lupus and dermatomyositis. For people with sun sensitivity, sun exposure can cause rashes and lesions, flares or aggravation of their condition.

Medications can also cause the skin to be sensitive to sunlight, including some antibiotics, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For more information about medications that can increase your risk in the sun, read this article from The Conversation.

If you have issues with sun sensitivity and limit your time in the sun, you may be deficient in vitamin D, as the main source of vitamin D is sunlight. Talk with your doctor if you think this is an issue for you, as you may need vitamin D supplements.

How to take care of your skin:

  • Check daily UV levels by visiting the Bureau of Meteorology or the weather page in newspapers and online.
  • Use the Vitamin D and bone health map to guide you about the amount of time it’s safe for you to expose your skin to the sun.
  • Clothing, hats, sunscreen and shade are the best ways to protect your skin from UV light. You should use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on skin that can’t be covered by clothing. Choose your clothing carefully as not all fabric provides the same sun protection. To block more of the sun’s rays, choose clothing that has a thick, dark material with a tight weave. The Cancer Council has some useful information to help you know what to look for in sun-protective clothing.
  • Keep a scarf or sun umbrella with you during the summer, just in case you’re out in the sun unexpectedly.
  • Wear a hat that shades your whole face, neck, ears and head. Broad-brimmed hats with a brim of at least 7.5 cm provide excellent protection.
  • Try to stay out of the sun between 10am and 2pm (or 11 am and 3 pm daylight saving time) when UV levels are at their highest. Avoid highly reflective surfaces such as sand or water.

For more information on protecting your skin, visit the Cancer Council website. They have lots of very helpful resources.

Staying active

One of the best ways to manage your musculoskeletal condition is to exercise regularly. But in the warmer weather, you need to consider the weather conditions. Your regular exercise program may not be appropriate for an Australian summer and may need to be adjusted. If you’re unsure where to start, talk with a physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist for information and support.

Some general tips for exercising safely in summer:

  • Don’t eat before you exercise. Your body uses energy when it’s digesting food, creating more heat. That’s the last thing you want when you exercise, so give yourself plenty of time between eating a meal and exercising.
  • Drink plenty of water – before, during and after exercise. You sweat more when it’s hot and when you’re exercising, so you need to replenish the fluids you lose.
  • Wear loose-fitting, sun-protective clothing that allows you to move freely and for sweat to evaporate quickly.
  • Change the time you exercise. Avoid the hottest part of the day, so exercise earlier or later in the day. Or, if that’s not an option, change the way you exercise on very hot days. Exercise indoors using apps, online videos or DVDs. Or visit your local pool or beach and exercise in the water.
  • Recognise that there’ll be days when it’s not safe to exercise outdoors. And if you don’t have adequate cooling indoors, that applies to indoor exercise as well. Australia is a land of extreme temps, so on those really hot days, give yourself a break 😎.

Storing your medications in hot weather

You need to take special care with your medications in hot weather, and they need to be stored correctly in cool, dry places away from direct sunlight.

Avoid bathrooms, as they’re often humid. Avoid cupboards above the stove or oven as they can get hot.

People on certain biologic medications may need to store medications below 8ºC, and you may need a cool bag to keep them at the correct temperature when bringing them home from the pharmacy and when traveling on holidays. Pharmaceutical companies will often provide special travel packs. Talk to your pharmacist for more information.

Preparing meals in summer and for special occasions

We tend to gather more regularly in the summer to enjoy good company, good food and good weather. However, this can cause stress, especially if it’s a big event or if you put pressure on yourself for everything to be ‘perfect’. And when the temps are high, as they often are in summer, this can add to your fatigue and discomfort.

Here are some simple steps to help you create and enjoy meals in a way that saves you energy and frustration, leaving you with more time to enjoy your family and friends:

  • Separate your tasks into small steps so that you can plan ahead and prepare things over time rather than in a rush.
  • Consider ordering your food and groceries online and having them delivered. Check out the websites of your local traders for more information.
  • When buying groceries, consider the pre-cut or pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. This will save you time and effort when preparing meals.
  • A range of kitchen utensils is available, including knives and peelers with wide easy-grip handles that make things easier when you’re cooking. Check out our online shop to see some gadgets that can make life easier
  • Remember that vegetables are easier to chop after they’ve been cooked.
  • If you have difficulty carrying saucepans and draining the water when cooking pasta or veggies, use a metal colander or wire basket slightly smaller than the saucepan. Put the food into the colander and place it in the saucepan. Once the food’s cooked, simply lift the colander out of the saucepan. Or ask someone to do this for you.
  • Share the load and have people bring a plate. You don’t have to do everything. And it gives everyone a chance to bring their favourite new recipe 😊.
  • When you head to the park or the beach, be on the lookout for outdoor tables where you can comfortably sit to enjoy your picnic, rather than having to sit on the ground or carry portable chairs.

Medical cooling concessions and rebates

These concessions provide a discount on summer electricity costs for concession cardholders who have specific medical conditions that affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

Visit your state/territory website to find out if you’re eligible for this concession:

Tips for surviving the summer from our volunteers

  • Exercise in the morning when it’s cooler.
  • In very hot weather, go for your daily walk in air-conditioned shopping centres, rather than outside in the heat.
  • Don’t forget to protect your feet. Put sunscreen on any exposed skin and wear supportive shoes.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep well hydrated.
  • Maintain a healthy diet with lots of light salads.
  • Prepare and pre-cook meals in the morning when you have more energy and when it’s a bit cooler. You can then reheat it in the evening.
  • Have your air conditioner serviced so that it’s more efficient.
  • Take ice packs when shopping to keep perishable goods cold.
  • Think about doing your shopping online and having it delivered.

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.

More to explore


career.jpg
19/Jan/2022

Working with a musculoskeletal condition can be a real struggle. Some people find that no matter how many accommodations or adjustments they make in their job, they can no longer perform their work duties to the required level. Or the job has become too taxing on their body, causing constant pain, fatigue and stress.

This can be a devastating blow, especially if it’s a job that you love. It can also be an extremely scary time as you contemplate a new future, with a different job.

The good news is that there are resources and organisations to help you through this process.

Job Outlook

Job Outlook is a great website and a good place to start when contemplating your next career move. It has a range of very helpful tools including:

  • Skills match – this tool helps you find new jobs that use your existing skills. You simply add your previous jobs, including unpaid or volunteer work, and it’ll give you alternative jobs that use your skills.
  • Career quiz – this simple quiz gives you a range of work scenarios. You choose the ones that appeal to you the most. The quiz provides a range of career paths that may interest you based on your answers.
  • Explore careers – provides all the relevant information about different occupations including tasks associated with the job, salary, future growth, skills and knowledge required, and the work environment (including physical demands of the job).
  • Links to training courses, job vacancies and other useful resources.

JobAccess

JobAccess is the Australian Government’s one-stop shop for information and resources for people with disability, employers and service providers. The section for people with a disability has a wealth of resources, especially on the Available Support page including:

Australian Job Search

Australian Job Search is Australia’s largest free online jobs website. Lots of useful info and resources for job seekers.

Job Jumpstart

Job Jumpstart provides articles and tools to help you find jobs that suit your interests. Information is tailored to your stage of life:

Department of Education, Skills and Employment

The Australian Government, Department of Education, Skills and Employment, provides information and support to help you with training and learning new skills.

  • Career Transition Assistance – designed to help people over the age of 45 build their confidence and skills when it comes to finding a job, and becoming more competitive in their local labour market.
  • Help with the cost of training – find out if you’re eligible for free or subsidised training.
  • Skills and Training Incentive – for people aged 45-70 years of age, it provides up to $2,200 to jointly fund training to help you remain in the workforce longer.

My Skills

My Skills is the national directory of vocational education and training (VET) organisations and courses. It provides info on:

Careers counsellors

You can also get professional help making decisions about your career choice by talking to a careers counsellor. They provide information, advice and guidance to help you make realistic choices about work, including further training or upskilling. They can help you identify jobs that match your skills and interests, create a resume, provide info on where to look for jobs and more.

Visit Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA) to find a private career counsellor who can help you work out your best career options. Note – these services aren’t free. The CDAA advises that ‘all members are in business, they charge a fee for the services they provide. You are encouraged to contact 2-3 members and discuss your needs to make an informed decision about who could help you best.’

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.


christmas.jpg
09/Dec/2021

Woo-hoo! The year is wrapping up – and what a crazy year it’s been! It’s time to enjoy some well-earned festive cheer with our loved ones.

But we also need to take care. In our excitement to fling off the shackles of 2021, there’s the very real chance we’ll end up in a painful heap.

So, we’ve put together some tips to help you get through the holidays intact. (And we’ve added a little holiday cheer to the headings so make sure you click on the links! ???).

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas: Brace yourself for the shopping madness

  • Plan around your pain and fatigue. 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. Be kind to yourself as you may feel exhausted for hours/days after your trip. If your battery was already low before you tackled this, it might take some time to recharge and feel yourself again.
  • Once you get to the stores, follow the COVID-safe guidelines that apply.
  • Use a trolley or a shopping buggy, even if you’re only getting a few things. It’ll do the heavy carrying for you, so you can avoid muscle and joint pain.
  • Use your assistive devices – walking aids, braces, orthotics. If you have them, use them. They make a big difference.
  • Take breaks. Shopping is exhausting and stressful, so take breaks when you need them. Don’t push yourself too hard, or you’ll end up paying for that over the coming hours/days.
  • Shop online. We’ve learned through life in lockdown that so many things can be purchased with a few quick clicks of your mouse. So visit your favourite stores online and save yourself some trips to shopping centre madness. Just be sure to check the shipping details to ensure your goods arrive in time.
  • Shop local. You don’t need to visit the big shopping centres to find unique gifts or fresh produce. Small, independent local stores often have most of what you need. And many of these businesses have been doing it tough. So share the love and shop local.
  • Be kind to others. Your fellow shopper isn’t the enemy. Be patient, give them space, and be tolerant. The retail staff also deserve our kindness and empathy – they’ve been on the frontline for a long time. And if you feel yourself getting a little hot under the collar, breathe and remember we’re all going a little crazy at the moment.

Dance of the sugar plum fairy: Festive feasting!

  • Rule #1 – don’t skip meals. It’s a common mistake to make. You’re anticipating a delicious lunch and/or dinner with all your favourite foods, so you skip meals to make space. But this can lead to overeating because you’re starving when you do sit down to eat. It’s also not a great idea to have an empty stomach when taking certain meds or drinking alcohol. So make sure you eat, even if it’s a small meal, to tide you over until you get to the main event.
  • Stay hydrated. The silly season is usually a hot time of the year and it’s easy to become dehydrated. Especially if you’re drinking alcohol and/or playing backyard cricket, so keep the water flowing.
  • Cook/bake things ahead of time. Many foods we enjoy at our holiday gatherings can be made days and sometimes weeks before the big day. That means you don’t have to work yourself into a cooking frenzy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And you’re more likely to enjoy yourself on the day if everything’s prepped and ready to go.
  • If you’re hosting, ask your guests to bring a plate. This shares the work, the cost and ensures those with special dietary requirements can bring food that accommodates their needs.
  • Slow down – appreciate the food and the company you’re with. It’s been a really tough year, and we’re finally able to be together. Relax, eat your delicious food ? and enjoy catching up with the important people gathered around the table ?.

Santa baby: Buying gifts

  • Take a leaf out of the big guy’s book ? – write a list and check it twice. Knowing what gifts you’re looking for before you hit the shops will save you time, energy and money.
  • Consider spending less. It’s been a tight year for many of us, so it makes sense to be economical and save some dollars. You don’t want to head into 2022 with massive debts.
  • Make your own gifts. Embrace your inner creative guru and bake, paint, draw, build, knit or sew your presents. Another option is to make your own gift vouchers – e.g. 1 hour of babysitting or dog walking.
  • Embrace Kris Kringle or Secret Santa gift exchange. They’re popular for a reason ?. Save yourself time, stress and frustrating shopping expeditions. It’s perfect if you have a lot of people to buy for.
  • Give gift cards and vouchers. They’re an excellent idea for the person who’s hard to buy for or already has everything. And you can get a lot of them online – without the hassle of changing out of your pajamas or leaving the comfort of your couch ?.
  • Donate to charity. Instead of buying a gift for those who have everything they want or need, consider donating in their name to their favourite charity.
  • When it comes to wrapping your gifts, gift bags are easier on sore hands than cutting wrapping paper and using sticky tape. They’re also a lifesaver for those of us who are hopeless at wrapping ?. They’re also reusable ?.

Deck the halls: Decorating your home

  • Get the family involved. Put on some music and have fun with it. Decorating your home and your tree is all about the joy of the festive season, being together and the love of shiny tinsel ?.
  • Keep it simple. Remember, what you put up has to be packed away. So if that thought fills you with trepidation, choose the ‘less is more’ option.
  • Save your back when you’re decorating and put your baubles and tinsel on a table or bench. That way, you’re not constantly bending over to pick them up.
  • Use a step ladder rather than overstretching. And if you have any balance issues, ask someone else to do the high stuff.
  • Remember, things don’t have to be ‘perfect’. That’s too much pressure. Things should be happy and festive, so fling some tinsel over the banister, a wreath on the door, and presents under the tree. Job done! ?

Rockin’ around the Christmas tree: Hosting gatherings

  • Keep it COVID-safe. What you can do and how many people you can have over will depend on where you live. So visit your state/territory government health site for the latest info. Have plenty of soap and hand sanitiser available, and if you’re feeling unwell, get tested and stay home, or cancel your gathering. That last one will be incredibly tough, as we’re so used to soldiering on through our aches, pains and fatigue, but if you think there’s even the remotest chance you have COVID, get tested and keep everyone safe by isolating until you know you don’t have the virus. Use the Healthdirect symptom checker to find out if you need to be tested.
  • Keep it simple. As with decorating, keep your celebrations simple. Seriously after the year we’ve had, any celebration will be epic!
  • Take a seat. Make sure you take time to rest and get off your feet.
  • Be medicine-wise.
    • Over-the-counter and prescription medication may help you manage pain and inflammation so you can enjoy your day. If you’re not sure what will work best for you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
    • Watch the alcohol. Many medications don’t mix well with alcohol, so find out if it’s ok to have a drink with your meds.
  • Give yourself a break when it comes to cleaning and packing up. Get the family and your guests involved – even if it’s simple things like folding up chairs or bringing dishes to the kitchen. And ask yourself if you really need to do everything immediately? A lot can be done the next day after you’ve had a rest.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas: Taking care of you

  • Manage stress. Christmas and the holidays can be stressful, but you need to manage your stress as best you can or risk having a flare. So pull out your best stress management strategies and use them as often as you need to.
  • Pace yourself. When you’re hosting an event, it’s easy to get carried away and be constantly on the move. Gatherings can be a marathon, so pace yourself. You don’t want to run out of steam before the end. The same goes if you’re visiting others. Travelling to and from your home to theirs, being a witty conversationalist ? and just interacting with others after a year of lockdowns and isolation is exhausting.
  • Get some sleep, and rest when you need it. With so many events and gatherings happening at this time of year, it’s easy for our sleep to be disrupted. And we have enough problems with sleep at the best of times! Try as much as possible to stick to your sleep schedule and take rest breaks or naps when you need them.
  • Stay active. Regular exercise is essential all year round for managing a musculoskeletal condition and chronic pain. It’s also important to help offset some of the extra kilojoules you may be consuming at this time of year. And it will help you deal with excess stress and sleep issues.
  • Listen to some tunes. Music helps to reduce anxiety, fear, depression, pain-related distress and blood pressure. And it’s an easy, cost-effective and enjoyable way to get some relief from your pain.

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.

More to explore


tattoo.jpg
09/Dec/2021

Once considered edgy and a little dangerous, piercings and tattoos are now mainstream. It’s almost more difficult to find a person who hasn’t got one than someone who does. ?

Piercings and tattoos are the most common examples of body art; however, body art also includes branding, scarification, dermal anchors and three-dimensional art or body modifications.

Many of these practices can be dated back thousands of years, but in the last few decades, we’ve seen their popularity soar, especially for piercings and tattoos.

This article will focus on piercings and tattoos and what you need to consider before facing the pointy end of a needle if you have a musculoskeletal condition.

Musculoskeletal conditions, tattoos and piercings – what’s the big deal?

If you have any condition that affects your immune system, or you take medications that suppress your immune system, you’re at increased risk of developing an infection any time your skin is broken, like when you get a tattoo or piercing. These conditions and medications may also affect the time it takes you to heal.

For people with psoriatic arthritis and/or psoriasis, any damage or trauma to their skin – such as a tattoo or piercing – has the potential to cause lesions. This is known as the Koebner phenomenon. Find out more about it here.

Other things to be mindful of if you have a musculoskeletal condition, specifically when it comes to tattooing, are:

  • They take time. Depending on the tattoo’s size, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to many hours to complete the design. For big tattoos, this may be scheduled over several sessions. That’s a long time to sit still, sometimes in an uncomfortable position, if you have chronic pain and stiffness.
  • Tattoo placement. Avoid tattooing over joints. A tattoo could potentially make joint injections or joint surgery more complicated. Swollen joints will also affect the look of the tattoo, as can future surgery. So best to avoid the joints.
  • They’re painful. I know, I know, living with a musculoskeletal condition is painful, and we’re all warriors when it comes to battling that foe. However, this is a different type of pain. It feels hot and scratchy, as if someone’s stabbing you with high-speed needles over and over while injecting ink into your skin for hours. Oh, wait…?.

Things you can do to manage these issues

  • Talk with your doctor/specialist. This is #1. Before you go anywhere near a needle, discuss it with your doctor or specialist. Is it safe for you, at this current time, with your specific health condition? Is your condition well managed? What about your medications? Will they impact your current ability to get a tattoo or piercing? If you have meds delivered via injection or infusion, do you need to time your tattoo or piercing around them? And if so, what’s the best timing? Be frank and open about your desire to get a tatt or piercing, but also listen to their expert opinion about what they think is best for your health. And it may be that now isn’t the right time. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t ever get tattooed or pierced.
  • Only use a professional, licensed/registered tattooist or piercer. The regulations around licensing/registration differ in each state and territory, but you can find information about what to look for on your government’s health website.
    Other things to look out for: When you visit the premises, they should be clean (as should the person who’s about to work on you). They should follow strict protocols to ensure all instruments and surfaces are disinfected and sanitary. They should wear gloves and use needles from a sealed pack. For more information, read The Australian Department of Health article, Healthy body art.
  • Take your time to find someone you’re comfortable with. They’re about to be up close and personal with you, whether it’s for a short time with a piercing or a long time with a tattooist. And they’re potentially going to see parts of your body that don’t often see the light of day. So you should feel relaxed and comfortable. You can also take someone with you for moral support (however, this may depend on COVID density limits: check with your tattooist or piercer).
  • Take your time choosing your tattoo design/s and placement. You’re going to live with them for a long time. What may have seemed like a great idea when you were in your 20s may not be as impressive when you’re 60. Our tastes and interests change over time, as does our body. So consider how the design will age with you and how your body will age with the tattoo.
  • Keep it clean. Follow the aftercare information you’re given for your tatt or piercing. That means cleaning them as directed, avoiding activities that will irritate the skin and the open wound. Because that’s what we’re dealing with here – an open wound that has the potential to become infected. Healthline has some general information about tattoos and piercing, including aftercare. The Australian Department of Health article, Healthy body art also has some helpful info on aftercare.
  • Be proactive in managing the pain. If you’re concerned about the pain factor, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about a topical anaesthetic you can use before getting a tattoo and whether it’s right for you.
  • Start small. If it’s your first tattoo, don’t dive straight in and go for a full sleeve ?. Start with a small design. That’ll give you the chance to see how you react to getting tattooed – from managing the pain and sitting still, to how quickly you heal. Tattoo artists aren’t going anywhere – so there’s always time to go back for more ?.
  • Avoid alcohol. We’ve all heard stories of people getting a tatt or piercing when they’re intoxicated. But you really, really want to avoid doing this. First – you’re likely to be turned away. Responsible practitioners won’t work on you if you’re visibly impaired. It’s just too risky. Second – your decision-making won’t be your best. I’m sure it seemed hilarious at the time to get a Winnie the Pooh tattoo (true story ?), but will you really want it after your head’s cleared? And finally – the blood. Drinking alcohol before your tattoo will increase the bleeding at the site. A little bleeding during and immediately after getting a tattoo is normal – it’s a wound after all. But alcohol will increase this. It can also slow down healing.

Infections

For most people, getting a tattoo or piercing is entirely safe if done by an experienced professional. However, sometimes things can go wrong, so it’s essential to know the signs of infection. They include:

  • increasing pain at the site
  • warmth and/or swelling at the site
  • pus and/or redness at the site
  • feeling hot or cold, or developing a fever.

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor. Or call Healthdirect from anywhere in Australia on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse 24/7.

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.

More to explore


doctor-appt.jpg
09/Dec/2021

Did you know that 52% of Australians are putting off their healthcare due to concerns about COVID-19? (1)

This alarming figure has prompted the Continuity of Care Collaboration (CCC), a network of more than 35 peak bodies, industry and healthcare organisations, to create the #DontWaitMate campaign.

The campaign aims to reassure people that attending their GP, dentist, pharmacist, allied health professionals, and specialists is safe. That it’s safe to get blood tests, skin tests, scans and all other pathology tests.

It’s essential that anyone with chronic or complex health conditions, the elderly, vulnerable communities and people who are immunocompromised have continuity of care so that they’re able to live as well as possible. And that any changes in their health are picked up as soon as possible.

#DontWaitMate campaign also urges anyone who’s been putting off their tests or has noticed urgent and/or new symptoms to pick up the phone and make an appointment today.

Your health is the priority.

CCC explains that there are measures to help you feel safe to access health care needs remotely, e.g. through telehealth, e-prescribing of medicines and home delivery of medicines. If you need to go to a clinic or hospital, personal protective equipment, regular cleaning, and distancing measures are all in place.(2)

It’s all about keeping you safe while managing your ongoing healthcare.

So Don’t Wait Mate. If you’re like me and have a pathology form stuck on the side of your fridge or a poo test in your bathroom drawer, go and get it, pick up the phone, and make that call. Don’t let them expire like I did ?. It just adds to the time you’re waiting to ensure everything’s ok.

Or, if you’ve noticed some changes in your health or body that concern you, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss them.

Because your health is too important to neglect.

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.

Reference

(1-2) Continuity of Care Collaboration
https://continuityofcare.org/


tattoo-birds.jpg
18/Nov/2021

Warning: This article mentions self-harm and may be triggering for some people.

I’ve recently had some tattoos added to my upper arms. I love them – dragons, books, peonies and symbols that commemorate my parents.

But before I got them, I had to come to terms with the fact that to show them off, people were going to see my arms. And that was a problem. You see, when I was much younger, I hated my body so much that I used to cut myself. So I have several scars on my left arm that I’m constantly covering up.

But I’m tired of hiding. It’s Australia, and it gets so bloody hot in the summer that I don’t want to wear long sleeves all the time. Plus, I wanted to get new tattoos, and my arms were the perfect canvas. So I had to accept that people might stare.

My story isn’t unique.

Sadly, many adults, teens, tweens and little kids ? have body image issues. And they cause us to do all kinds of things – from wearing baggy clothes, to excessive exercising, cosmetic surgery, unhealthy eating, comparing ourselves to others, becoming isolated, hurting ourselves – and everything in between.

So it’s time to love the bodies we’re in, and accept the diversity of bodies around us. Because they’re amazing, beautiful and wonderfully unique.

What is body image?

Basically, it’s how we see our bodies, and how we feel and think about them. It can be positive, negative or neutral. And it can fluctuate. One day you may feel really great about your body, and the next, really down on it.

Living with a musculoskeletal condition can affect the way we see our body. These conditions, the pain and fatigue they cause, as well as the medications we take to manage them, can affect the way we move, our joint structures, our weight, fitness, skin, hair and nails. And SARS-CoV-2 – the pesky virus that keeps on giving – hasn’t helped things. Over the past couple of years, many of us have experienced changes in our appearance that we may not be altogether thrilled with.

But we need to accept that our bodies change, and they’ve been changing since we took our very first breath. They change as we age, as we develop health conditions, as we take different meds, as we injure ourselves, as we exercise, lose or gain weight, get piercings or tattoos, go through puberty and menopause, as we change our hairstyle and our fashion sense…as we embrace change.

Not accepting these changes, and our bodies as they are, only leads to unhappiness. It can also cause low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, disordered eating, isolation and relationship issues.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked.
Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” Louise L Hay

Loving yourself

1. Be kind and accept your body as it is

This is a big one, and can be really, really difficult. Especially if you’ve had body image issues for some time. But consider this – if someone said that your bestie was ‘fat’ or ‘plain’ or ‘has horrible hands’ or ‘terrible skin’ – you’d immediately defend them. So why is it ok to say these things to yourself? Be your body’s friend and advocate, not its enemy.

“And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’
It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’” —Nayyirah Waheed

2. Practise every day

It takes time to change the way we see ourselves. When you wake up, and before you go to sleep, think about something you love about your body. It doesn’t have to be related to appearance – we’re so focused on that – but it could be your sick dance moves, or the way your body enables you to play a musical instrument, or walk the dog, or laugh out loud.

Write these onto post-it notes and put them on the fridge, the mirror, in the car. And read and repeat them when you need a little extra boost.

“Your self-esteem won’t come from body parts.
You need to step away from the mirror every once in a while and look for another reflection,
like the one in the eyes of the people who love you and admire you.” – Stacy London

3. Appreciate the differences

We’re all different, and that’s the way it should be. How boring would the world be if we all looked the same? Differences are beautiful.

“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress,
simultaneously.” – Sophia Bush

4. Be a good role model

Kids pick up on our behaviours and attitudes, and they learn from them. So avoid criticising yourself or others in front of kids. Instead, say nice things about your body and how you appreciate what it can do.

“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body’.
Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’
So I make sure to say it to my daughter because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.” — Kate Winslett

5. Surround yourself with positive people

It’s easier to be kind to yourself and love your body when you’re with positive people. Those who also accept and value their bodies for how amazing they are, rather than how they look. People who are critical of themselves and others are tiring, and feed our negative self-talk. So if your friend or family member is constantly berating their looks or weight, gently explain to them that you’d prefer not to discuss appearances. And move the conversation on to other, more enjoyable topics.

“I say I love myself, and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh’, she’s so brave. She’s so political.
For what? All I said is ‘I love myself, bitch!’” — Lizzo

6. Ditch the influencers and body shamers

And any other online platforms or magazines that promote idealised and unattainable body images. They just exacerbate negative feelings. Instead, find media and socials that show diverse images, and appreciate the differences.

“We come in many different shapes and sizes, and we need to support each other and our differences.
Our beauty is in our differences.” – Carrie Otis

7. Replace the time you spend criticising your appearance with happier, more enjoyable activities

Being mean to yourself can be a major time-suck. And it’s exhausting! We have enough things making us tired without adding something as pointless as belittling ourselves. So whenever you feel like you’re about to go on a self-hating tirade, do something else:

  • walk in the park and listen to the birds
  • breathe deeply and be conscious of every breath
  • listen to some arse-thumping music and dance
  • call a friend
  • take down the Empire in Star Wars Battlefront
  • cook a yummy meal
  • get your hands dirty in the garden
  • have sex!

And make sure that while you’re doing these things, you’re in the moment, not in your head.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others

We’re all different and have different genes, lifestyles, health issues and backgrounds. These things all play a part in how we look. I’m from a family of relatively short people. The only way I’m going to be tall is with the addition of very high heels ?. I also know that I’ll always wear glasses, have fine hair and be covered in tatts. It’s my make-up and lifestyle, and it’s part of what makes me, me. And that’s ok.

“Step away from the mean girls and say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks.
Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate?
Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.” — Oprah

9. Remember that images on socials are the highlights

It’s rare for people to put up images of themselves when they’re looking their ‘worst’. How many pics have been taken before the ‘right’ image was selected, filtered, touched up and then posted? They’re carefully curated to make a person look a certain way. So don’t get sucked into the madness.

“Your body. Your diet. Your life. It isn’t perfect. It never will be. But it’s real. It’s honest.
It’s beautifully flawed. And totally magical.” ― Nicola Jane Hobbs

10. Nurture your body

Feed it healthy, tasty food that makes you happy and satisfied. Move it regularly and often. Refresh it with good quality sleep. Pamper it with massage, warm baths, lotions and potions and hugs.

“You can’t hate yourself happy. You can’t criticize yourself thin. You can’t shame yourself worthy.
Real change begins with self-love and self-care.” — Jessica Ortner

11. Get help

Sometimes we need help to change the way we think about ourselves. This could be from a really good friend who you can talk openly and honestly with. Or it could be a professional. Just know that help is available if you need it. You don’t have to feel bad about yourself. Read our article ‘Support for mental and emotional wellbeing’ for more info.

And if you want to change something like your weight or fitness level for health reasons, rather than trying to match up to society’s ideals, you can get help with that too. So you can lose/gain weight safely and become more active. Talk to your GP for information and support.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else
is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

12. Be patient

Changing the way you think and feel about your body will take time. So be patient with yourself. And acknowledge that there may be times when you’ll stumble and start thinking badly about yourself. But you can use any of these strategies to pick yourself up again. We’ve also included lots of great resources in the More to explore section for you to check out.

My scars, and the kick-ass tattoos nearby, are just outward representations of part of my journey. So even if people notice them and stare, I can feel proud that I’ve survived. And while I’m still very much a work in progress, I’ll continue to work on loving myself and striving to be a good role model to those people around me. At the end of the day, that’s something I can control, not other people’s perceptions of me or society’s ever-changing ideals of the ‘perfect body’.

Crisis support

If this article has raised some issues with you or you feel like you need help, contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention.

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.

More to explore


GP-plan.jpg
18/Nov/2021

Ever notice how much governments love acronyms?? Unfortunately, this article is full of them, but we’ll explain what they mean and try to clear up the murky area of chronic disease management (CDM) plans, formerly called Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) plans.

Note: The primary sources for this article is the Australian Government, Department of Health’s chronic disease management resources. Unfortunately this information has not been updated since 2014. Please treat this as general information only, and discuss your specific needs with your GP.

What are CDM plans?

In a nutshell, these plans are a proactive way for you and your general practitioner (GP) to manage your chronic, complex or terminal medical condition/s. The Department of Health defines a chronic condition as ‘one that has been (or is likely to be) present for six months or longer’.

Chronic musculoskeletal conditions fit under this definition.

These plans are prepared by a GP to help eligible people manage their condition/s. The plans set goals to help people manage and hopefully improve their health and wellbeing.

There are two types of CDM plans:

  • GP Management Plans (GPMP) and
  • Team Care Arrangements (TCAs).

GP Management Plans (GPMP)

A GPMP can help people with musculoskeletal conditions by providing an organised approach to their care. It’s a plan that you’ve worked out with your GP that:

  • identifies your health and care needs
  • sets out the services to be provided by your GP
  • lists any other health care and community services you may need
  • lists the actions you can take to help manage your condition.

For example, if you have osteoarthritis in your knees that’s causing you lots of pain, and you’re no longer able to comfortably play tennis or go bushwalking, you and your doctor might decide that losing some weight will improve this situation. However, rather than just agreeing that weight loss is a good idea, a GPMP is an action plan that sets out your clear aims and objectives.

Once this plan has been developed, you should receive a copy to take with you.

Team Care Arrangements (TCAs)

If you need help from other healthcare providers to achieve your goals, your GP may also suggest a TCA.

TCA’s include 5 visits per calendar year to other health care providers. These 5 visits can be to one healthcare provider or spread between several providers.

On the first of January you become eligible for 5 new visits. You’ll need to see your GP about this.

You should also receive a copy of this plan.

Eligibility

This is one of the areas that’s a little complicated, so if you think you might be eligible, it’s best to speak with your GP directly. When you call to make an appointment, let the receptionist know that you’d like to discuss a chronic disease management plan. You’ll need a longer appointment for this.

The Department of Health states that while there’s ‘no list of eligible conditions…these items are designed for patients who require a structured approach and to enable GPs to plan and coordinate the care of patients with complex conditions requiring ongoing care from a multidisciplinary care team. Your GP will determine whether a plan is appropriate for you’. (1)

Costs

Also a tricky area. If a healthcare provider (e.g. dietitian) accepts the Medicare benefit as full payment for the service, you’ll be bulk billed and there’ll be no out-of-pocket costs. However if they don’t, you’ll have to pay the difference between the fee charged and the Medicare rebate. This is often called the ‘gap’.

When you’re making an appointment, be sure to ask what your out-of-pocket costs will be. If the cost isn’t something you can afford, discuss your options with your doctor.

Reviewing your plan

Your plan will need to be reviewed regularly. These reviews allow you to see how much progress you’ve made. If you’re meeting your goals – e.g. losing weight, increasing your fitness – that’s great. If you’re not getting there or having difficulties, a review will allow you to discuss this with your GP and work on solutions or adjust your goals.

Help!

It can seem overwhelming, but your GP and the practice nurse are there to support you on this journey.

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.

More to explore

Reference

(1) Chronic Disease Management Patient Information, Australian Government, Department of Health, 2014.


rachel.jpg
18/Nov/2021

Written by Rachel Lea

During the 32 years of living the life of a Lupus Warrior, I’ve come to liken the feeling of battling lupus to the principles of the board game Snakes and Ladders. When the dice rolls, you take the number of steps forward that the dice dictates. Literally one step at a time. When you’re feeling well, and your lupus is under control, you may even land on a ladder and climb up the board a little bit further. When that’s happening, you feel truly happy, as you’re able to maintain a sense of balance and stability. It just feels good.

But then the game can change without warning, and the dice can roll towards a snake. When you hit a snake, it boldly raises its head and hisses at you. Taunting you. Because you know what’s coming. You’ve suffered another setback, another lupus flare. And so you begin to slide. You slide all the way down the back of that slippery snake, sometimes to the bottom of the board. That soaring happiness dissipates as you realise you have to begin the game all over again, and fight your way back up to the top of the board. This is how the game of lupus is played each day. Over and over and over again. At some point, you’ll always fall back down. Why? Because lupus always wins.

So the never-ending tweaking of medication takes place, whether it be increased steroids or methotrexate. This’ll require months and months of tapering back to the dose at which I was originally controlling my lupus. Before that flare took me down. My symptoms of extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, fevers, migraine-like headaches, mouth ulcers and hair loss are being treated by these medicines. It’s draining. And bloody frustrating! Particularly when I felt I was managing my lupus and overall health really well, and then, boom!

After thirty-two years of experiencing such flares, I’ve grown to realise that the only way to fight back is to simply let go. Let go of everything. Place myself in a protective bubble and focus on me. Hope that the drugs kick in quickly and move with the pain and discomfort the best way I can. I’ve grown to learn that it takes strength to surrender and put trust and faith in the universe. That even when I’m struggling like this, I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. I know this because when I’ve been too stoic, trying to rise above the pain and fatigue, the resulting flare has been longer and more challenging to overcome.

I grew to learn very early into my diagnosis the benefits of being very gentle and kind to myself. If that means having a teary and a good sook, so be it. If that means I’m in bed for days or even weeks, I’ve no choice but to give in. If it means I’m back on the higher doses of medications, with all of the nasty side effects that come with them, then that’s just the way it is. I just have to roll with it as best I can. I need to let go so I can get back on the game board again and keep rolling the dice.

I’m a kinder, more considerate and less judgmental person because of lupus. I’m more patient and adaptable when faced with new challenges. I’ve recognised that being able to persevere and be resilient in the face of uncertainty is a gift. Self-acceptance cultivates much inner peace, but when my acceptance of life with lupus is tested, I’ve learned to respect what this disease is and what it can do. If I wage a war against myself and push through without enough rest and respite, I’ll be causing more inflammation, more damage, and undo all the good I’m trying to nurture within my body. And that’s no good for me in the short or long-term. I’m managing a disease without a cure, one that’s unlikely to leave me anytime soon.

Not being well enough to continue my beloved vocation of working as a VCE secondary school teacher, I’m currently on another journey of personal growth and acceptance. In addition to having lupus, I’ve also been battling fibromyalgia for 8 years. As I became sicker, teaching became more challenging than usual, even when working part-time hours. I was also working within a combative, negative work environment. I was constantly asking myself, ‘how can I keep moving forward, finding hope and purpose as a chronically ill person in a toxic work environment like this?’ One where people strongly resisted the opportunity to invest more time and effort into creating greater goodwill and positive change that everyone could benefit from. How long could I endure the frustration of working like this and be in the best health possible? And ultimately, the question which intrigued me the most, ‘how do other people, like me, who have invisible chronic illnesses, cope in stressful, challenging workplaces? How do they find their way in the world when their pain is invisible to those around them? ’

With too many lupus flares to bounce back from and a working environment that wasn’t likely to improve, I resigned from my teaching job. It’s been a very isolating, extremely lonely and sad time for me. However, over time I’ve been able to reflect on the challenges of having lupus and working in a difficult work environment. This has resulted in my book ‘Lupus = Lift Up, Persevere, Use Strength’.

I’ve written my book in 3 parts. The first part, ‘Lift Up’, examines the 3 long years it took to diagnose my lupus. I was symptomatic at age 14 and diagnosed at 16. I describe the social, emotional and physical impacts of being ill as a teenager, its effects on my parents and family, and the stress of misdiagnosis and experimental treatment along the way. In part 2, ‘Persevere’, I discuss the struggles of having lupus while finishing school, university and the fear of entering the workplace as a secondary school teacher with a chronic illness. In the final part, ‘Use Strength’, I share the challenges of life in the workplace with an invisible illness and how I’ve tried to maintain hope and perspective.

It’s my greatest hope that my book can offer companionship and unity to fellow Lupus Warriors, chronic illness fighters, their carers and loved ones. I also hope to generate greater understanding and awareness of lupus, and cultivate more compassion and empathy for the challenges of living with a chronic illness. In all of the teachings that having lupus continues to bring, I know I must keep putting into practice what I’ve learned in being able to surrender and embrace the unknown with more courage, grace and acceptance.

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.


vaccine-syringe.jpg
28/Oct/2021

There’s been a lot of talk in the media recently about boosters and third doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. And the nurses on our Help Line are certainly taking lots of calls about it! So we thought we’d answer some of your questions about this next step in the vaccination rollout.

Honestly, most of us thought that once the majority of Australians were double vaxed, it was smooth sailing ahead. That everything was sorted. Job’s done. Time to ‘get on the beers’ and return to normality. ??

But this virus is tricky, and we’re still learning so much about it. Including how to protect ourselves from it.

Fortunately, we can look overseas for information. With Australia’s vaccine rollout months behind countries like the UK, US and Israel, we can learn a lot from their experiences and the data they’re collecting.

We know that after two doses of the vaccines, healthy people have a greatly reduced risk of developing severe COVID or ending up in hospital. Which is fantastic news. Yay for vaccines!

However, we’re seeing that some people with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised) have caught COVID, even though they’re fully vaccinated.

Although we don’t know exactly why this happens, it appears that people who are immunocompromised have a varied response to the vaccine. They do gain immunity, but it’s generally not to the same extent as the general population. And how much immunity they gain depends on their underlying health condition and the medications they’re using.

That’s why the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recently recommended a 3rd dose of the vaccine to severely immunocompromised people so that they can reach a level of immunity that’s protective. You can check out their list of immunocompromising conditions and therapies here. The Australian Rheumatology Association has also updated their COVID-19 information to include information about third doses. And if you want to know if you need to get a 3rd dose – because the information can be a little confusing – talk with your GP or specialist about your situation.

It’s worth pointing out that the use of additional doses to increase the vaccine’s effectiveness in immunocompromised people isn’t a new thing. It happens with other vaccines, for example, the annual flu shot to boost immunity to the influenza virus. Instead of one flu shot, some people require two.

When it comes to the general population – again using overseas experiences and data – we’re seeing that about 6 months after the 2nd vax, the protection from the vaccines seems to be waning.

A booster shot may be needed if immunity to the virus does start to decrease. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), in consultation with ATAGI, has assessed the Pfizer vaccine for safety and effectiveness as a booster. As of 27 October 2021, it was provisionally approved for use in those aged 18 and over. The first in line to get it will be those who received their vaccines firsts – way back in February 2021 – so that’s aged care residents, frontline health and quarantine workers. The government is waiting on further advice from ATAGI as to when the rest of the population will receive boosters.

Booster shots may also be required in the future as we see different variants of the virus emerge. Again, as we see with the annual flu vaccination, it’s tweaked each year to keep up with changes to the influenza virus. This may be what happens with the COVID vaccine.

At this stage, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one put forward as a booster. So what does that mean if you received a Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine for your first two doses?

We’re not sure. Several studies are investigating this very question. It’s possible that mixing different vaccines might broaden your protection. But the research is ongoing, and it’s just too early to say. So it’s a matter of ‘watch this space’.

Finally, it’s essential to recognise that being vaccinated doesn’t stop people from getting COVID. But it significantly reduces the risk of severe disease and hospitalisation. That’s why we need to be vigilant and do all the COVID-safe things we’ve been doing since this whole thing started:

  • wash your hands
  • cover your coughs and sneezes
  • wear a mask (when required)
  • physical distance
  • check in
  • stay home when sick
  • get tested
  • and stay safe.

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.

More to explore




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.

Useful Links


Recent Posts

Copyright by Musculoskeletal Australia 2022. All rights reserved

ABN: 26 811 336 442ACN: 607 996 921