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16/Jun/2022

Times are tough; there’s no denying that. The rising costs of everything (hello, $10 iceberg lettuce 😭) are putting the household budget under significant pressure. And this is causing many of us to feel anxious.

But we can do many practical things to relieve some of this stress. Let’s start in the kitchen with our tips for enjoying tasty, healthy meals and snacks that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Make a meal plan – and stick to it

Before hitting the shops, plan your meals and snacks for the week. Check the fridge and pantry to see what ingredients you already have, and write a list of those you need. Writing a list is essential because, even if you’re not in pain or dealing with brain fog, it’s easy to forget things, buy the wrong quantities or items you don’t need in the heat of the moment. (Step away from the chips Lisa 😁). And if, like me, you hate shopping and really want to avoid crowds and germs, getting the shopping done quickly and efficiently is a must. With the steep price of petrol, it also makes sense to keep the trips to the shops to a minimum. So plan, plan, plan! Eatforhealth.gov.au has some helpful information on meal planning, including sample mean plans. There are also lots of meal planning apps you can download from Google Play or the App Store. They conveniently place your meal plan and shopping list on your phone, so no more forgotten shopping lists!

Read the nutrition panel

It’s a good habit to get into so you can track the amount of energy (kilojoules), fat, salt, sugar etc., in your foods. It’s also helpful when comparing different brands of the same product.

Swap some meat dishes for vegetarian or vegan meals

Research has found that vegan and vegetarian diets cost less than a diet that includes meat. You don’t have to go all-out vego; simply swap some of your meat dishes for plant-based meals. They’re tasty, healthy and cheap. Healthy vegetarian protein sources include tofu, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, lentils, eggs and nuts. If you need help, there are many websites with interesting and tasty vegetarian and vegan recipes.

Note: You’ve probably noticed the multitude of plant-based ‘meats’ crowding the shelves in your supermarket, often alongside actual meat products. They’ve been developed to look and taste like meat and can be a good alternative to meat, especially if your family aren’t keen on giving tofu a go 😉! Just make sure you read the nutritional panel carefully before buying these products, as some have high levels of salt, saturated fat and other additives. The Cleveland Clinic has an interesting article to help you know what to look for when buying faux meats.

Choose generic, home brand and no-name products

They’re generally cheaper and are often exactly the same as the name brand, just without the fancy packaging.

Prepare some meals in advance

When you’ve got some free time, make extra meals that you can freeze and use when necessary. That way, when you’re exhausted, having a flare, or just can’t be bothered cooking, you’ll have some meals you know are healthy. And you won’t have to resort to takeaway foods or store-bought frozen meals, which can be costly and are often high in fat, salt and/or sugar.

Buy local and in-season fruit and veg

They’re generally more nutritious, fresher and more cost-effective. The Australian Farmers’ Markets Association has a tool to help you find your local farmers’ market, and Sustainable Table has a handy seasonal produce guide.

Buy so-called ‘ugly’ produce

These fruits and vegetables are cheaper and taste fine. Who cares if your carrot has two ‘legs’ or your apple has a spot? At the end of the day, they’re perfectly healthy and packed with all the usual nutrients. They just don’t look shiny and new, but who does these days 😉? You can get imperfect produce at many supermarkets and food subscription services.

Read the unit price when comparing products

This will enable you to see the price difference regardless of brand or quantity, and you can work out which provides the best value for money. Unit pricing works by using a standard measurement across all products of the same type.

So, for example, if you compared yoghurt A with yoghurt B:

  • yoghurt A costs $6.40 for 1kg, so its unit price is $0.64 per 100g
  • yoghurt B costs $2.30 for 200g, so its unit price is $1.15 per 100g.

That makes yoghurt A cheaper per 100g.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do the mental gymnastics to work this out for yourself. The unit price is generally provided on the shelf label and online. Phew! Shopping is hard enough!

Grow your own

Over the past few years, many of us have discovered the joy of gardening. So why not grow some of your own produce? Whether on a small scale with a few pots of herbs on your balcony or larger scale vegie patch and fruit trees in your backyard, you can experience the pleasure and reap the rewards of growing some of your own foods. Nothing tastes sweeter than the food you’ve nurtured, grown and picked yourself 💚.

Use frozen and canned fruit and vegetables

They’re still healthy and usually cheaper than produce that’s not in season. They’ll also keep longer. Just make sure you read the ingredients list and nutrition panel. Canned foods may have added salt or sugar. So for vegies, look for ‘no added salt’ on the label, and choose fruits in natural juice with no added sugar rather than canned in syrup.

Shop around and do your research

Just because you’ve always shopped at a particular place doesn’t mean you always have to shop there. Visit the local farmer’s markets, keep an eye on catalogues and join online groups with other savvy shoppers. That way, you’ll always know who’s providing the best value for money for your groceries.

Buy in bulk items you use regularly and have a long shelf life

This includes things like rice, dried/canned legumes and pasta. And the best time to buy them is when they’re on sale. But please don’t go crazy and start hoarding or buying too much 😐. Bulk buying to save money is different to the panic buying we’ve seen during the pandemic. If we all shop for only the things we need, there’ll be plenty for everyone.

Reduce your kitchen waste

Shopping with a list will help, and only buy what you need. Take note of the foods you often throw out because they’ve become a mysterious, furry blob in your fridge. Avoid buying that item, or buy less of it when you shop. Look for ways to use food that’s becoming slightly less than fresh but is still good. Soups are a great way to use the last of the vegies in your fridge crisper. Visit the Foodwise website for tips to help you reduce waste.

Getting takeaway

Let’s face it, there’ll be times when you really, really want takeaway food. It’s quick, easy and delicious 😋. As long as it’s an occasional thing and you eat it in moderation, it shouldn’t have too great an impact on your health or wallet. Here are some tips from Health and Wellbeing Queensland to help you make the healthiest choices when it comes to takeaway food.

Finally, don’t shop when you’re hungry

It’s an easy way to end up with lots of things in your trolley that weren’t on your shopping list. This can blow your budget and plans for healthy eating right out of the water. So shop after you’ve eaten or munch on some fruit or handful of nuts before you even consider walking into the bright lights and air-conditioned aisles of your local shopping centre. Your budget will thank you for it.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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16/Jun/2022

January 1, the traditional date many of us resolve to make healthy changes in our lives, has come and gone. Exercise more regularly, add new recipes to the repertoire, meditate in the evenings … sound familiar? And many of us gave it a red hot go.

But as often happens when life gets in the way (or the continuing saga of the pandemic keeps on rolling 🤦), our goals can take a hit.

If you still want to make these changes but haven’t had much success so far, you may want to rethink your approach.

‘Start small’; ‘slow and steady wins the race’; ‘small changes eventually add up to huge results’. These clichés are plastered over Pinterest and motivational boards for a reason. When we start small or break our goals into smaller tasks or actions, they’re less overwhelming and more achievable.

Here are some tips to help you make small but deliberate changes that can have a big impact on your physical and mental health and wellbeing 😊.

First – take the time to reflect on what YOU want to achieve.

Now write it down. Try to be as clear as possible.

Next, consider using the SMART framework. It can help you achieve your goals by helping you clarify your ideas and focus your efforts. SMART stands for:

Specific. What are you trying to do? Losing weight isn’t a specific goal. But committing to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise with the aim to lose 10kg in 8 weeks is.

Measurable. You need to be able to measure your progress so that you know when/if you’ve achieved your goal. With the weight loss example, we’ve specified how we’ll go about losing weight and included a measurable target, i.e. 10kg in 8 weeks.

Achievable. The goal needs to be achievable for you. It should challenge you but still be attainable.

Realistic. You need to be realistic, and your goal needs to be doable – for you and your circumstances. For example, if you’re currently under a lot of stress and not sleeping well, it can be more challenging to lose weight. Aiming to lose weight over a longer period might be a better option. Take the time to think about what’s realistic for you now. By doing this, you’re not setting yourself up to fail.

Timeframe. The goal needs to have an end date that you’re working towards. This gives you the motivation to push yourself further.

Don’t feel that you have to change everything at once. Say you’ve decided you want to improve your health and fitness. You’ve identified that you need to lose weight, exercise more regularly, quit smoking, start meditating, get more sleep, reduce your alcohol intake and drink more water. That’s a lot!

And it’s not like you’re trying to do these things in a vacuum – you also have work/study, family life, social life and – oh yeah – managing a chronic condition or two.

So instead, start with what you’d like to achieve most – e.g. exercising more – and work on that for a week or two. Then include other elements, e.g. talking with your doctor about safe weight loss options. When you feel like you’re making progress there, move on to other things, such as quitting smoking or reducing alcohol.

You’ll still be making a change but in a more achievable, less overwhelming way. And remember that any healthy changes you make will impact other areas you want to improve; e.g. reducing alcohol will aid weight loss and help you sleep better, as will exercising regularly.

Be mindful and focus…on your eating, exercise, time with family, hobbies, etc. We often move through life at breakneck speed and rarely pay attention to the small details. But these things and moments in time add meaning and colour to our lives. So take the time to savour your meals, notice how your body moves and supports you when you exercise, what it feels like to be with your family, or the enjoyment you get from your hobbies. These are small but important things you can practice every day.

Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re tired, emotional or bored. Working from home and pandemic stress has led many of us to eat things, or at times, we usually wouldn’t. Before you eat something, take time to reflect on whether you’re hungry or not. And if you’re not hungry, what’s making you reach for that food? If you’re hungry, and it’s between meals, do you have healthy snacks close at hand? Will a glass of water help fill you up? Or do you need to look at your meals and whether they provide the nutrients you need to get you through to your next meal without hunger setting in? If you’re not sure how to make healthy changes to your diet, talk with your doctor and/or a dietitian.

Put the devices away for a while and detox from digital. Our preoccupation with our phones, TVs, computers, gaming consoles etc., can get in the way of being present in the moment. And when it comes down to it, how many cat videos, memes, or news stories do we really need to see 😹? Our devices can be a trap, and it’s easy to lose an hour or two before you know it. This could be time spent reading with your kids, cooking a delicious meal or relaxing so you can sleep well. So put them away for a bit and enjoy life offline.

Incorporate the outdoors. Go for a walk in the park or another green space, take deep breaths and inhale the cool, crisp air. Not only will this get you moving, but there are many other health benefits associated with getting outdoors. They include reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving your mood and clearing your mind. However, be careful in these wet, wintery months of potentially slippery paths, rug up against the cold and wear appropriate shoes.

You can also use pot plants to bring the outdoors in and enjoy the health benefits. Just be sure to check that they’re not toxic for you, your family or your furry housemates.

Put some physical distance between yourself and your phone. Many of us constantly check our phones to see what the latest beep, blip or alert was for. And most of the time, it wasn’t for anything important. It takes you out of the moment and shifts your focus and concentration. The next thing you know, you’ve zoned out on conversations or started doom-scrolling. So give yourself some space.

Another benefit is that having your phone in a place you need to get up to access it can add quite a bit of incidental exercise to your day. For example, if you use your phone as your morning alarm, moving it away from your immediate bedside area means you’ll have to get up to turn it off. This also means you’ll be less likely to hit snooze countless times 😉.

Make it achievable. Whether you’ve decided to use the SMART framework or not, always make sure the goals you’re setting are achievable; otherwise, it can be disheartening if you don’t reach your target. For example, say you want to drink more water but only manage a glass of water a day at the moment. Trying to immediately go from a glass to the ‘magic’ 2 litres a day will be challenging. So don’t go straight for the big guns; ease your way in and increase your quantity over time.

Take time to make decisions. We’re often quick to say yes when family and friends invite us to dinner or a party, or a colleague asks to collaborate on a project. But try to slow your reaction. A night out or working together on a project might sound great at the time, but take a moment to consider it properly. What’s your schedule like? How are you feeling? Are you able to add another thing to your calendar? Instead of an immediate yes, try saying, “That sounds great; I’ll let you know once I check my schedule”, or “I’ve got a big week ahead, so I’ll have to get back to you”.

Taking control of your time at the outset is better than falling in a heap after over-committing. And those who know you will understand that this is essential to self-care and managing a chronic condition.

Slow and steady wins the race. Do you get to the end of the week and find that you have piles of laundry, too many unread emails and a garden full of weeds? It’s exhausting to even think about! A good practice is to break these jobs into smaller tasks and deal with them methodically during your week. Set aside some time to do these mundane chores each day. It’s up to you how long you spend on this – but having some dedicated time to deal with it means it’s less likely to overwhelm you by the end of the week. Leaving you with more time for the fun stuff! 🕺

Enlist help. There’s lots of help available if you need it. Family, housemates and friends can help you get things done around the home – on a regular or occasional basis. Then there are the professional cleaning/gardening/meal services you can have on standby if you need some backup. You can also talk with your doctor about accessing healthcare services if you need help developing things like a safe exercise program or a healthy eating plan. All you need to do is reach out.

Write it down. How often do you think, “I’ll remember that”, and completely forget it moments later 😣? The name of a TV series someone recommended, a new recipe, the date of your healthcare appointments 😑. It’s so frustrating! But having a foggy brain, persistent pain, sleeplessness, busy lives, and pandemic-brain can make us lose track or forget things. So write it down. On your phone, notepad, fridge … whatever works for you.

Focus on your breathing. Most of us take breathing for granted. It’s just an unconscious thing we do. But your breathing can become shallow if you’re in pain or anxious. However, you can reduce your pain and anxiety by focusing on breathing more deeply. Deep breathing increases feelings of calmness and relaxation and improves your focus and concentration.

Making changes to improve your health and wellbeing is admirable, but it can be challenging. That’s why starting small, building on your progress and asking for help are important. Talk with your family, doctor or the nurses on our Help Line for information and support. Because you can do this … one step at a time.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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16/Jun/2022

“Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless.” Terri Guillemets.

Winter is well and truly here ❄. And for many of us with conditions like fibromyalgia, lupus, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, back pain and Raynauds’s phenomenon, we feel the cold more keenly with increased joint and muscle pain or lack of blood circulation to the extremities.

As much as I’d like to be writing this to you from a toasty warm room, with the heat cranked high, there’s just too much pressure on the household budget to be so careless. And I know I’m not alone in feeling anxious about rising costs – food, petrol, mortgage/rent – everything seems to be going up. Except for the temperature outside, that’s stuck in a downward spiral 😨.

So what can you do to stay warm and keep the costs down this winter? Here are some strategies to try.

Dress for success

Let’s start with the basics. You need to dress for the temperature and wear layers of clothing. It can sometimes feel cumbersome and bulky, but it’s one of our best defences against the cold. So put on the warm pants and jumper, embrace your inner Wiggle and wear a skivvy, pull on your thick socks and/or tights and appropriate footwear. When you head outdoors, add more layers– including hats, gloves, scarves and masks (if required/desired).

If you’re working from home and still feeling the cold, consider using a blanket over your legs as you sit at your desk. I can tell you from personal experience it’s very cosy. And my cats love it 😺. Just be careful you don’t trip on it.

Deal with draughts

Cover the bottom of your door with a door snake or add some door seals. Pull your curtains and blinds over the windows at night and during miserable days to keep the warmth inside. If you have floorboards, consider putting down rugs (just be careful they don’t become a trip hazard). And check out these handy DIY draught-proofing videos from the City of Port Phillip (Melbourne).

Turn down the temperature

While it’s tempting to crank the heat up, the most efficient temperature to set your heater to (if you can set the temp) is 18-20 degrees. While that may not sound particularly warm, we’re often outside during the warmer months wearing short sleeves when it’s 18-20 degrees. It’s just a matter of perspective.

And only heat the areas you’re using. If you’re able to turn the heating off in unused parts of your home, do it. Shut the doors and use a draught stopper to prevent the warm air from the rest of the house escaping into these areas.

Let the sun shine in

Open your curtains and blinds on sunny days to let the sun shine on your windows. Even if there’s a chilly wind, the sun will bring some wonderful warmth into your home. And remember to close them when the sun goes down.

Snuggle up

Get cosy on the couch with your partner, kids, pets. Grab a warm blanket or doona, share your body heat and just enjoy being together.

Install heavy curtains

Thick curtains made from heavyweight, tightly woven fabrics can prevent heat escaping from your home. For the best results, curtains should be fitted as close to the window frame as possible, extend below the sill and well over the sides of the window frame, and a pelmet fitted over the top. This acts to ‘seal’ the window from the rest of the room and prevent heat loss. Curtains will also keep the hot air outside in summer.

Turn it off at night

You sleep better when your body has a chance to cool down a little, so turn the heater off at night. It’s also safer to sleep with the heater off. You can remove the chill from your bed by using a hot water bottle or an electric blanket. Just don’t forget to turn your electric blanket off before you go to sleep.

Winter-proof your bed

There’s nothing like slipping into a deliciously warm bed on a cold night, especially if there’s soft flannelette involved! So swap out your lighter, everyday bedding for heavier winter ones. And add layers – a top sheet (if you don’t already use one) and extra blankets. Finally, if you have floorboards in your bedroom, adding a rug under your bed can prevent any draughts from making their way to your bed.

Get active

Go for a brisk walk outdoors – wearing appropriate clothing – and you’ll warm up in no time. Save on pricey petrol and instead of driving, walk to the shop/school/post office etc.

When you’re at home, exercise indoors using an online program, a DVD or an app. Play with the kids. Clean the house. Do anything that gets you moving and you’ll feel warmer than you would if you sit in one place for hours on end.

However, if you’re having a flare or experiencing a lot of pain, be as active as you can within your limits. And use your heat packs to help relieve muscular pain.

Shorten your shower, if you can

Many of us use our shower to warm up sore joints and muscles so we can get moving. However hot water uses a lot of energy, and even a few minutes extra will add to your bill. If you’re able to, shorten the amount of time you spend in the shower, even if it’s just a little.

Move clothes horses and other obstructions away from the heater

Anything that blocks a heater will prevent the warm air from flowing around the room uninterrupted. So move them away from the heat source. And to stay safe, fire authorities say you should keep clothing one metre from your heater.

Use heat packs and hot water bottles

If you’re feeling stiff and sore, heat packs or hot water bottles can help get you up and about and provide temporary pain relief. Always follow the instructions when using them. Don’t overheat or smother them under blankets or clothes, and let them cool down between use. It‘s also important to let your skin temperature return to normal before using them again. To avoid burns, wrap your hot water bottle in a cloth or use a cover, so it doesn’t come into contact with your skin. Always examine your hot water bottles and heat packs before use, and toss them out if you notice signs of wear or damage. Finally, check their temperature before use to make sure they’re not too hot.

Warm up from the inside out

Many delicious winter recipes bring comfort and warmth on the most miserable days. So crack open the cookbooks and get cooking! Or go online for inspiration for yummy, warming drinks, curries, soups and stews.

Choose energy-efficient heaters

If you’re in the market for a new heater, make sure you’re buying one that’s energy-efficient and best suits your needs. Read Canstar’s article ‘A guide to energy-efficient heaters in 2022’ for more info.

Working from home

If you run a home-based business, Energy.gov.au has some simple tips to reduce your energy costs. Many of these tips are also applicable if you work from home because of the pandemic and have changed your working arrangements.

Billing and payment help

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, Energy.gov.au also has some information about support for Australian households, including info on potential rebates that may be available for you.

We’ve also put together lots of info to help you if you’re struggling with financial stress.

Insulate

If your house isn’t adequately insulated, this is something you can do for long-term benefit. Obviously, there’s a substantial upfront outlay, but it may be an option for some households. Find out more about insulation, including the different types available and how to install it, from the Australian Government’s website ‘Your home’.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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25/May/2022

Did you know the joints in your jaw are the most frequently used joints in your body? They’re constantly on the move as you talk, chew, cry, swallow, sing, smile and yawn.

Unfortunately, these joints can also be the source of pain and discomfort.

Let’s explore the anatomy of your jaw to better understand what can cause pain in these joints.

Lightly place your fingers on your face, between your nose and mouth, and spread them across your cheeks. This is the upper part of your jaw, called the maxilla. It holds your top row of teeth.

Now place your fingers on your cheeks in front of and just below your ears. This is the lower part of your jaw or the mandible. It holds your bottom row of teeth.

Open your mouth. You’ll feel the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) working. The rounded ends of your lower jaw (condyles) glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. Close your mouth, and you’ll feel the condyles slide back to their original position.

The temporomandibular joints connect your lower jaw to your skull. Inside the joint, between the two bone surfaces of your skull and jaw, is a disc of cartilage. It provides a slippery cushion that helps the joints move smoothly, absorbs shocks and prevents the bones from rubbing against each other. Muscles attached to and surrounding the joints control their position and movement, and enable your jaw to move up and down, side to side, and forward and back.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are conditions that affect the bones, joints, and muscles responsible for jaw movement. They’re the most common causes of jaw pain.

What causes temporomandibular joint disorders?

A number of different things can cause temporomandibular joint disorders, including:

  • teeth grinding or clenching (known as bruxism)
  • musculoskeletal conditions (e.g. fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis)
  • movement or dislocation of the disc
  • stress, tension, anxiety, depression
  • jaw injury
  • dental problems (e.g. uneven bite, ill-fitting dentures).

Who gets temporomandibular joint disorders?

TMDs are common, affecting up to 60–70% of the population, especially adults aged 20–40 years. Women are at least four times as likely to have a TMD.(1)

Many TMDs last only a short time and go away on their own. However, in some cases, they can become chronic or long-lasting.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of TMDs is pain in and around the jaw, ear and temple, especially when eating. Other symptoms may include:

  • clicking, popping or grinding (crepitus) when you move your jaw
  • headache
  • earache
  • difficulty opening and closing your mouth or a ‘locking’ jaw.

How are they diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing pain in the jaw or other symptoms that are causing you problems, you should see your doctor or dentist. They’re usually able to diagnose a TMD by:

  • taking your medical history – where the pain is, when it started, what makes it worse, and any other symptoms you have, and
  • doing a physical examination – observing as you open and close your mouth, feeling your jaw, listening for clicking and other noises.

Sometimes they may need scans (e.g. x-rays, or CT (computed tomography scans) if the history and exam weren’t conclusive or there’s uncertainty around your diagnosis.

Treatment

Many people with a TMD find that their symptoms go away without treatment.

However, others require a treatment approach that involves a combination of self-care and medical care.

Self-care

There are simple and effective things you can do to ease the pain and other symptoms of TMDs.

  • Use heat or cold packs. Cold helps reduce swelling and pain, while heat can relax your jaw muscles. Always wrap the pack in a cloth so it doesn’t touch your skin directly.
  • Try some gentle stretches, exercises and massage. They help relieve muscle tension and pain in your face, jaw and neck.
  • Eat soft foods, cut your food into smaller pieces and take your time eating. This will rest your temporomandibular joints and reduce the amount of work they need to do.
  • Avoid eating gum, or foods that are tough or chewy, as they require lots of repetitive chewing.
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements (e.g. wide yawning, yelling).
  • Relax your jaw. This is something you’ll need to make a conscious effort to do because most of the time, we’re not aware that we’re clenching our jaw. It can be helpful while you’re getting in the habit of doing this to set an alarm or alert to remind you to do it.
  • Do some relaxation techniques for the whole body. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, this can aggravate your TMD. You can do many things to relax your body and mind, including going for a walk, getting a massage, listening to music, and practising mindfulness.
Medical care

Not everyone will need medical treatment to ease their symptoms. But some of the treatments used are:

  • Medicines to relieve pain and inflammation and to relax muscles.
  • Wearing a mouth guard while sleeping to prevent tooth grinding. Your dentist can fit you for one.
  • Treating underlying conditions, such as dental problems, musculoskeletal conditions or mental health issues.

Surgery is rarely needed to treat TMDs.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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Reference

(1) Lomas, J. et al, 2018. Temporomandibular dysfunction. Australian Journal of General Practice, 47(4), pp.212-215.


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25/May/2022

If you’ve been experiencing persistent joint or muscle pain, stiffness and/or inflammation that you can’t explain (e.g. from a fall or strenuous physical activity), you should discuss your symptoms with your general practitioner (GP).

Many conditions can cause these symptoms, so to work out what’s causing your symptoms, your GP will:

  • Take your medical history. They’ll ask you about your symptoms, when they started, how they affect you, your family medical history and other health issues you may have.
  • Do a physical examination. They’ll look for redness and swelling in and around the joint and test your joint’s range of movement. They may also look for rashes, check your eyes and throat, and take your temperature.
  • Order scans and other tests. Depending on the condition your GP thinks you might have, they may send you for tests to check for levels of inflammation in your blood or specific genetic markers. You may also have scans such as x-rays, ultrasound or CT (computed tomography) to get a clearer picture of what’s happening inside your body.

When your GP has gathered all of this information, they may refer you to a rheumatologist.

Rheumatologists are doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating problems with joints, muscles, bones and the immune system. You need a referral from your GP to see a rheumatologist, whether they’re in private practice or a public hospital outpatient clinic.

Your GP may refer you to a rheumatologist if:

  • they think you have, or they’ve diagnosed you with, an inflammatory type of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, so that treatment can be started as soon as possible
  • your symptoms improve with treatment but come back when you stop taking medicine
  • your symptoms don’t respond to treatment or get worse over time
  • you develop unexpected complications, such as a fever, rash, or fatigue
  • you have unusual test results.

Preparing for your first consultation

When you make an appointment to see a rheumatologist, you should ask them some questions so that you’re prepared. This may include:

  • What do I need to bring with me?
  • How much will my out-of-pocket expenses be?
  • How long will my appointment be?
  • Is there parking available, or accessible public transport?

Armed with this information, you can be proactive and prepare for your consultation.

It can be helpful to make notes about your symptoms – when you first noticed they appeared, how they affect you day-to-day – as well as other health conditions you have, medicines or supplements you take regularly and information about your family medical history.

It’s also helpful to write down questions you want to ask your rheumatologist. Put them in order of the most important first, in case you don’t get through your entire list.

Your consultation

Seeing a specialist can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if you’re feeling unwell or anxious. There can also be a lot of information to absorb. That’s why it can be helpful to bring a family member or a friend to your appointment. They can provide emotional support, help you ask questions or write down any important information. They can also be a second set of ears to hear what the specialist says and help you recall this information later. It can be hard to remember everything, especially when you’re feeling anxious.

Wear comfortable clothing that can be easily adjusted or removed if necessary, so that the rheumatologist can examine you.

And don’t forget your referral, x-rays, scans and other test results, your list of questions and any other bits and pieces you were asked to bring!

Your first consultation with your rheumatologist will be more thorough than your consultation with your GP. They’ll:

  • review your medical history
  • ask lots of questions about your symptoms, such as when you’re most stiff or sore, and how long you’ve had pain and symptoms
  • do a comprehensive examination of your joints, including counting the number of tender and swollen joints
  • refer you for further blood tests and imaging if required.

It’s important to know that there are many different types of musculoskeletal conditions, and many have similar symptoms. So it can take time to get a diagnosis. Your rheumatologist may provide you with a prescription for medicines and suggest some self-care options that you can do while you wait for your diagnosis.

Follow-up consultations

Once your diagnosis has been made, your rheumatologist will provide you with information about your condition and a treatment plan.

Your treatment plan will fit your specific symptoms, needs and preferences. However, it will usually involve a combination of:

Depending on your diagnosis, you may need regular consultations with your rheumatologist.

How often they occur will depend on your condition, how well it’s responding to treatment and the medicines you’re taking, as some specialised medicines can only be prescribed by a rheumatologist. Some people see a rheumatologist regularly, while others are mainly treated by their GP, with the rheumatologist on hand for specialist advice. Some consultations with a rheumatologist may be done via telehealth.

Follow-up consultations are generally shorter than your initial one. Your rheumatologist will talk with you about how you’ve been doing since you began treatment. They’ll assess how well you’re responding to treatment and if you need to change your medicines or add additional ones. They’ll also do a physical exam and order any further blood tests or imaging if required.

Your rheumatologist will also talk with you about your self-care and other things you can do to manage your condition.

It’s important to take an active role in these consultations. Ask questions, and if you don’t understand the answers, ask them to explain further or for more information. Talk with your rheumatologist about your goals for treatment – they may be things like reducing pain and fatigue, but also more personal goals such as getting back to playing golf regularly or planning an overseas trip. Together you can ensure your treatment plan supports your goals.

Ongoing care

The aim of treatment for musculoskeletal conditions is low or no disease activity. This is called remission. It doesn’t mean your condition has been cured, but your treatments keep it under control.

With the significant advancements we’ve had in medicines in the past few decades and targeted treatments for many types of musculoskeletal conditions, achieving remission can be a real possibility.

If you achieve remission, your rheumatologist may reduce the dosage and/or frequency of the medicines you’re taking. They’ll monitor you to see how you’re doing and make changes as required. And you won’t need to see them as often.

If you haven’t achieved remission, the aim will be to control your condition and its effects on your body and life as much as possible. This will determine how often you need to see your rheumatologist in the future.

Costs

The cost to see a rheumatologist varies. Part of the cost is subsidised by Medicare, but there is usually a gap payment that you’ll need to make. When making an appointment, ask about out-of-pocket costs.

If you have a Medicare card, you may be able to attend a rheumatology clinic at a public hospital if you cannot afford out-of-pocket expenses to see a rheumatologist privately. Talk with your GP about your options.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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25/May/2022

In March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, the Federal Government made telehealth available for all Australians. This enabled us to access our general practitioner (GP) and other healthcare providers from the comfort – and safety – of our homes.

As of 1 January 2022, many telehealth services became a permanent and ongoing part of Medicare.

Eligible patients will continue to have access to GP, specialist, nursing, mental health care, midwifery and allied health services via telehealth where the healthcare provider believes it’s appropriate.

It’s important to note that telehealth consultations will not take the place of face-to-face consultations. They’re just another option that may be convenient, and yet another example of the hybrid world we now live in 😉.

What is telehealth?

Simply put, telehealth enables you to consult with your healthcare provider over the phone or through a video platform (e.g. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime). Your healthcare provider may specify which platform you need to use.

Depending on your available technology and how comfortable you are using it, you might have a conversation over your phone with your doctor (like any other phone call), or interact face-to-face via the video platform.

If you’re only comfortable talking on your phone, that’s ok. You don’t have to download apps and learn how to use them, especially if this makes you anxious. You can choose to see your healthcare provider in person or consult over the phone if appropriate.

But if you’re interested, video platforms are easy to use. And they allow your healthcare provider to see you and assess you visually. This obviously gives them a lot more information about you and your health. The platforms and technology just take a little practice 😊.

However, a change that did come into place in January 2022 means that for initial and complex specialist consultations, face-to-face and video services are required. Telephone consultations are only available for subsequent and minor consultations. This is because you and your specialist will have a better quality consultation face-to-face or via video than you could over the phone. This is essential for your first consultation or if your situation is complex and can’t be managed effectively and safely over the phone.

Why would I choose telehealth over face-to-face consultations?

You may choose telehealth over face-to-face consultations if you’re feeling unwell or fatigued, and going in person would make you feel worse. Or, you may not be able to take time off work to go to an appointment, but you do have a quiet space at work where you can have a private telehealth consultation during a break. Or, you may live in regional or remote parts of the country and accessing a healthcare provider via telehealth is more convenient and timely.

It’s also your only option if you have COVID and you’re self-isolating. We still need to restrict the spread of the virus.

And remember, it’s not an either/or situation. Face-to-face and telehealth consultations will continue alongside each other – with both having their merits.

What are the costs?

During the initial phase of the COVID telehealth rollout, all telehealth consultations were bulk-billed. This was to keep us at home and reduce the spread of the virus.

However, with most of the population now vaccinated and living in ‘COVID-normal’ times, you can’t assume that telehealth consultations will be bulk-billed. So when you’re making your appointment, ask if it will be bulk-billed or if you have to pay a consultation fee.

The video platforms are free to download and use.

Eligibility

As with the rules when telehealth was first introduced in 2020, you still need to have an existing relationship with your GP to meet eligibility requirements. That means you must have had a face-to-face consultation with the same GP or another practitioner at the same practice in the 12-months before a telehealth consultation.

It’s not always easy

As many of us have discovered over the last couple of years, as we’ve been working, schooling and just trying to entertain ourselves at home, there are always teething issues. The two biggest issues are technology and time.

Technology – it can make our lives easier and more entertaining, but sometimes it seems like it just makes things more complicated. Like when you’re tired, anxious, frustrated, unwell or in pain, everything, including technology, seems against you, and nothing seems to work 😑. Often this is because we find it difficult to focus or concentrate; after all, we’re tired, anxious, frustrated, unwell or in pain. Other times it may be because there’s a big demand on the system. Everyone is trying to get online for one reason or another, which may cause slower internet speeds.

Time – as with any appointment, there can be issues with time. Your healthcare provider may be running late because of tech issues, other patients have needed more time, there’s been a medical emergency, or because they’re human and have lives and families too, and things can get in the way. Or you may be running late for similar reasons. We all need to be patient and give people a little leeway as we navigate this new ‘normal’ we find ourselves in.

But we can make it easier

We’ve identified these potential issues not to freak you out but to prepare you. Honestly, they may not happen at all. But there are things you can do to prepare for your telehealth consultation that will make things easier for everyone.

Be patient – if your doctor is running late, if your internet is slow, if your appointment is rescheduled due to an emergency, be patient. This can be hard to do when you’re unwell or in pain. But becoming impatient won’t change the situation and will only make you feel worse – physically and emotionally. Make a cuppa, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, talk with your partner/cat/dog/kids – distract yourself while you wait.

However, if you have chest pain, difficulty breathing, or a medical emergency, call 000 immediately. Don’t wait for your telehealth appointment.

Be prepared – before your appointment, make a list of the things you want to discuss with your doctor. Put them in order from the most important to the least. That way, you won’t finish your consultation and then kick yourself for not asking X. Also – be aware that your appointment may end earlier than you anticipate if there’s a tech issue or an emergency. So lead with your most pressing questions or concerns, and if you have time, follow with the less important ones.

Be kind – Our healthcare providers are doing the best they can, often under stressful, trying circumstances. During this crisis, they’re our frontline, so please be kind to them. And be kind to yourself. You’re learning new technology or new ways to do things and just trying to stay sane during an insane time – recognise that you’re also doing the best you can. So hang in there.

Talk with someone who cares

Call the National MSK Help Line – our nurses are available weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 1800 263 265, or you can email helpline@msk.org.au. They can help you with info and support about musculoskeletal conditions, managing pain, treatments, accessing services, and much more.

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Crystals.jpg
04/May/2022

Did you know that some forms of arthritis are caused by crystals forming inside a joint?

Two of these conditions are gout and acute calcium pyrophosphate (CPP) crystal arthritis. CPP is a mouthful (!), but you may have heard of its old name, pseudogout, which means ‘false gout’.

So what are these conditions? And how do they affect people?

Let’s start with gout.

Gout is a common and painful form of inflammatory arthritis. It involves sudden flares of extreme joint pain, swelling and redness. It most often affects the big toe, but it can affect any joint, including your wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, and fingers.

Gout occurs more frequently and develops earlier in men, often between 30 and 45 years. Women are more at risk of developing gout after menopause. It affects both men and women equally over 65.

Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in your blood, causing needle-shaped crystals to form inside a joint.

Some things increase your risk of developing gout. They include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • having conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and heart disease
  • drinking too much alcohol (especially beer)
  • eating a diet high in purines such as meat, sweetbreads, offal, shellfish, and fructose
  • using diuretics
  • becoming dehydrated
  • crash dieting, fasting or overeating.

Acute calcium pyrophosphate (CPP) crystal arthritis also involves sudden and painful flares of extreme joint pain, swelling and redness. This condition most often affects the knees and wrists but can affect other joints and tendons.

CPP affects both men and women, most commonly over age 60.

It occurs when calcium pyrophosphate crystals form in the joint cartilage. They may also be found in the joint lining and the joint fluid. Unlike the needle-shaped crystals in gout, these crystals are rod-shaped with blunt ends. It’s not clear why the crystals form, but they increase in number as people get older.

Some things increase your risk of developing CPP. They include:

Diagnosing crystal arthritis

Many conditions can cause joint pain and swelling, so your doctor will talk with you about your symptoms and medical history and examine the affected joint. If they suspect you have gout or CPP, they will take scans of the joint.

They may also remove a fluid sample from your joint. This fluid is examined under a microscope for the presence of crystals or anything else that may be causing the pain and inflammation. This is the most definitive test for crystal arthritis and indicates whether uric acid crystals or calcium pyrophosphate crystals are present.

Treatment

The first step in treating gout and CPP is to control the pain and inflammation. This may involve medicines, cold packs, and resting the joint.

Your doctor will consider your medical history and other health issues when deciding which medicines are most appropriate and safe for you to use.

The most common medicine used to control pain and inflammation during a gout or CPP flare is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). Another common medicine used to treat gout is colchicine. Corticosteroids (or steroids) can also be very effective.

In the case of gout, once the flare is under control, your doctor may prescribe medicines that lower uric acid levels in your blood. This will depend on things such as:

  • how often you have flares
  • if you’ve developed tophi (hard, uric acid deposits under the skin) or kidney stones
  • other health conditions you may have (e.g. kidney disease).

For both conditions, treating any underlying conditions is also important to prevent future flares.

Self-care

As well as taking your medicines as prescribed, you can reduce the pain and swelling of a flare by using an ice pack on the painful joint for short periods. You should also protect and rest the joint.

Other things you can do to prevent future flares:

  • Take any medicines as prescribed.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. This needs to be done carefully and gradually, as crash diets or fasting can cause a flare for people with gout. Your doctor and/or a dietitian can support you in this.
  • Drink water regularly, as becoming dehydrated can increase your risk of a flare for both conditions.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid binge drinking.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. If you have gout, avoid or eat in moderation foods high in purines. Talk with a dietitian for more information. There is no link between CPP flares and diet. Although the crystals are calcium pyrophosphate, there’s no evidence having a calcium-rich diet triggers a CPP flare. In fact, everyone should ensure they get enough calcium in their diet to reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Work closely with your doctor to prevent further flares and actively manage your condition.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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04/May/2022

It seems like every time you look at your socials, open a newspaper or listen to the radio, another awareness day, week or month is being promoted.

Just this week, to name a few, we have World Asthma Day (3 May), International Day of the Midwife (5 May) and International No Diet Day (6 May). Oh, and let’s not forget Star Wars Day (4 May), as in May the force (fourth) be with you. 😂

In fact, as far as musculoskeletal conditions go, May is chock-full of awareness days:

October also has its fair share:

And we have World Young Rheumatic Diseases Day (WORDDay) on 18 March.

So what’s the point of all of these days and the countless others that get shared around?

Awareness raising

In our 2020 national consumer survey, a common issue raised by many respondents was the lack of awareness of musculoskeletal conditions and the impact they have on people’s lives. It’s one of the reasons we named the subsequent report Making the Invisible Visible because, for the most part, these conditions have no visible signs to indicate the pain and suffering they cause. Or the tremendous effect they have on daily lives, finances, the ability to work and study, be social, exercise, have a family, travel, be intimate, and so much more.

Rattle Ya’ Bones Day came about as a vehicle for us to promote these issues, educate the public about them and lift the stature of musculoskeletal conditions. It also provides the opportunity to dispel many myths surrounding arthritis, back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Promoting specific conditions

There are over 150 different musculoskeletal conditions, so it can be easy to get lost in the mix. Specific condition awareness days allow conditions like lupus, juvenile arthritis and fibromyalgia to shine and get the awareness they deserve.

Sharing personal stories

An important aspect of awareness days is sharing the voices of people living with the condition or health issue. These stories, experiences, and perspectives provide the broader community with insight into their lives. And that’s a powerful way to make people care.

Connecting people

When you live with a painful condition, it can be an isolating experience. If you don’t know anyone else with your condition, it can be even more isolating. Awareness days can provide an opportunity to connect with others online and at events.

And for those newly diagnosed who may be feeling a bit lost, these awareness days can help people find a community of people who understand what they’re going through.

Showing support

You can show your support for people living with specific conditions by sharing information about the awareness day, donating, volunteering, and so much more. Even liking a post and sharing it with your network goes a long way to supporting a cause and the people whose lives are affected. It’s a chance to say “this matters” and let others know it matters. And hopefully they’ll learn about it and care too.

Seeking change

In our survey, many people expressed their frustrations and difficulties they faced living with musculoskeletal conditions and the shortcomings in the systems that should support them. By raising awareness of these issues, we can lobby for change.

Raising funds

Many awareness days also have a fundraising component to them. This may be for anything from providing services to supporting research.

Having fun

Whether it’s a serious awareness raising campaign or just a weird and wacky day that exists on its own (I’m looking at you, International Goof Off Day 😁), adding fun elements encourages people to get involved. And let’s face it, the world can be a grim place at times, so any extra fun we can cram into our days provides some necessary silliness.

Save the date! Rattle Ya’ Bones Day – 31 October 2022

Keep an eye on our socials and MSK News for information about this year’s Rattle Ya’ Bones Day (RYBD). RYBD aims to raise awareness of the impact of muscle, bone and joint conditions on the lives of those who live with them. You can help us do that. So stay tuned!

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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13/Apr/2022

We talk about inflammation a lot. But what is it? What’s happening in your body when you have inflammation?

Acute and chronic inflammation

There are two types of inflammation – acute and chronic.

Acute inflammation

Acute inflammation is your body’s reaction to things such as an infection (e.g. a cold or infected wound) or an injury (e.g. a sprained ankle or bee sting).

Symptoms associated with acute inflammation are:

  • pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • heat
  • loss of function (e.g. difficulty moving a swollen ankle after spraining it or difficulty breathing through your nose when you have a cold).

What’s happening in your body with acute inflammation?

When you sprain your ankle, or get an infection, your immune system automatically springs into action.

Cells close to the source of the injury or infection release chemicals known as inflammatory mediators (e.g. histamine). They increase blood flow to the area, widening blood vessels and allowing more blood to reach the injured tissue. As a result, the area becomes red and feels hot.

The extra blood to the area enables more immune cells to reach the injured tissue. This includes white blood cells, or leukocytes, whose role it is to defend your body against infections and disease and start the healing process.

Depending on the cause, acute inflammation can occur quickly and generally goes away quickly.

Chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation is persistent, low-level inflammation that lasts for months or years. With chronic inflammation, the inflammatory process often begins when there’s no injury or illness present; and it doesn’t end when it should. When this happens, white blood cells may target and damage nearby healthy tissues and organs.

We don’t really know why chronic inflammation occurs. It doesn’t seem to serve a protective purpose as acute inflammation does.

However researchers have identified factors that increase your risk of developing chronic inflammation, including:

  • chronic infections
  • physical inactivity
  • poor diet
  • obesity
  • imbalance of gut bacteria
  • disturbed sleep
  • smoking
  • stress
  • ageing.

Many people don’t know they have chronic inflammation, but they may feel symptoms such as:

  • body and joint pain
  • fatigue and insomnia
  • weight gain or loss
  • frequent infections
  • depression, anxiety and mood disorders
  • digestive problems (e.g. constipation, diarrhoea, acid reflux)
  • skin rashes.

Chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

If you’re concerned about chronic inflammation and have symptoms like those above that have been troubling you for some time, see your doctor . They’ll talk with you about your symptoms, do a physical exam, and may decide that blood tests are necessary to look for signs of inflammation.

The blood test will look for elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), which rises in response to inflammation.

Inflammation is helpful until it’s not

It’s important to remember that inflammation isn’t inherently bad. Acute inflammation serves a vital role in our health and survival. It helps us recover from injury and infection. However, when it’s chronic, it can negatively affect our health.

Always talk with your doctor if you have symptoms that are distressing you or making you feel unwell.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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13/Apr/2022

Do you get to the end of your busy, tiring day, drag yourself to bed and then have trouble falling asleep? Or staying asleep?

If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common problem, especially for people with musculoskeletal conditions or chronic pain. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that about two-thirds of Australians aged 18 and over with chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and mental health issues report at least 1 sleep difficulty or problem.(1)  And so while it’s probably no surprise to you that poor sleep affects your pain levels and quality of life, did you know it can put you at risk of developing other chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease? (2)

That’s why it’s important to develop a healthy and consistent bedtime routine that allows your body and mind time to wind down and relax so that you can sleep well.

What are the elements of a bedtime routine?

First, a good bedtime routine needs time. Rushing is counterproductive and can lead to more stress and anxiety right before you hop into bed. So give yourself enough time, at least 30 minutes each night. Also, allow time for your new routine to stick. We’re creatures of habit, but when we create new routines, we have to give them time to become second nature.

Next, your bedtime routine should involve things that you enjoy, help calm your body and mind, and let your body know it’s time for sleep.

Here are some suggestions for things you might include in your routine:

  • Set a time for going to bed, and stick to it as much as possible. When you have a consistent sleep schedule, your body naturally adjusts and begins to feel tired at the right time each day, making it easier to fall asleep.
  • Don’t use technology during your wind-down time. It’s easy to lose track of time while reading emails, checking social media or watching the latest TV series. The next thing you know, you’re still awake at midnight. So put the technology away.
  • Write it down and get it out of your head. Put pen to paper and write down your worries, concerns, and things you need to do the next day. Basically, anything playing on your mind and interfering with your ability to relax and sleep. Don’t do this right before you hop into bed, as they’ll still be on your mind. Instead, do it a few hours before bedtime, and then put it away.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and big meals close to bedtime. They can affect your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. Instead, drink water, herbal tea or non-caffeinated drinks. And if you’re hungry, eat a light snack, for example, a piece of fruit, some yoghurt or a small handful of nuts.
  • Adjust the temperature. Your body’s core temperature needs to drop a few degrees for you to fall asleep. So for your bedroom temperature, it’s best to aim for cooler (but not cold) rather than warm. A helpful tip from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is to think of your bedroom as a cave: it should be cool, quiet, and dark.
  • Have a warm shower or bath an hour or two before bed. This is also about achieving optimum body temperature for good sleep. The shower or bath will initially warm your body, but then as the water evaporates from your skin, you’ll quickly cool down. The warm water also stimulates blood flow from your core to your hands and feet, lowering your body temperature.
  • Don’t forget your teeth! While it doesn’t directly relate to sleep quality, it’s part of the winding down process at the end of your day.
  • Take your regular medicines (if required).
  • Avoid strenuous exercise before bedtime. It raises your temperature and heart rate, making it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, save these kinds of activities for your morning or afternoon.
  • Do something you enjoy – for example, read a book, listen to music, talk to your partner/kids/pet. These enjoyable activities create a feeling of calm. They can also improve your mood and help you manage stress and anxiety.
  • Try other ways to relax – such as gentle yoga, meditation, stretching, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Have sex! Research suggests that having sex improves sleep, whether you’re alone or with a partner. Orgasm releases several hormones, including oxytocin, which when elevated as a result of sexual intercourse improves sleep quality. Cuddling may also help you fall asleep, as it can make you feel calm and comforted.
  • Prep for the next day. Take the stress out of your morning routine by doing some prep the night before. Sort out your lunch, outfit, kid’s homework etc, so you can go to bed feeling confident your morning will start well.

These simple suggestions to help you wind down at the end of your day can help you relax and sleep better. And in the end, we all want to sleep well and feel as refreshed as possible when we wake up. So why not give some of these things a go? You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore

Reference

(1-2) Sleep problems as a risk factor for chronic conditions 
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)




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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