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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.

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03/Dec/2020

Tips for travelling well

8 December 2021 – This blog was written during the first year of the pandemic and so much has changed since then! Including the ability to head overseas. For information on overseas travel during COVID-19, visit the Australian Government Smartraveller website. And for details about COVID restrictions and guidelines when travelling throughout Australia, visit the government health site of the state or territory you’re visiting.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag.

With most of the state and territory borders reopened in Australia, many of us are itching to travel. And while we can’t leave the country – there’s still a ban on overseas travel – we can visit regional areas and head interstate. Yay! And just in time for the festive season and summer.

But for some of us, although we find the idea of travelling exciting, the practicalities of it can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. Especially if you’ve got a chronic, musculoskeletal condition. And unfortunately these feelings are only likely to be heightened because of the whole COVID thing.

So here are some tips and tricks to help you manage your condition so you can get the most out of your trip and have the best time.

Planning is vital

Take the time to plan your trip carefully. Being proactive before you go anywhere gives you the opportunity to plan around your condition, rather than have your condition disrupt your trip. So make sure you:

  • give yourself plenty of time to pack
  • get some rest before you leave so you have plenty of energy
  • make your itinerary realistic – and don’t try to cram too much into it (this is a hard one, because if you’re like me you want to see and experience everything!)
  • plan some downtime into your trip so you can rest, put your feet up and recharge your batteries.

Packing

This can be one of the hardest parts of travelling – what to take, what to leave at home – so if in doubt, leave it out! Lifting heavy bags out of cars, on and off trains and buses and through airports increases your risk of injury and fatigue. When you travel you also end up carting your luggage around far more than you realise. So:

  • pack light – take only what you need
  • use lightweight luggage if you have it (or can borrow it)
  • don’t forget to pack the things that help make life more comfortable e.g. your lumbar pillow, orthotics, splints
  • keep your meds in separate pieces of luggage to ensure you don’t lose it all if your luggage is lost or stolen.

Medical prep

Give yourself plenty of time to get medically prepared for your trip and:

  • ensure regular doctor visits, blood tests etc are done before you leave.
  • talk with your doctor about vaccinations – do you need any? Are you up-to-date with routine vaccinations like tetanus?
  • make sure you have enough of all of your medications to cover you while you’re away. Depending on where you’re going, you may not be able to access them at the local pharmacy.
  • store your biological meds properly – your rheumatologist or the pharmaceutical company can advise you on this.

Managing your pain while you’re away

Unfortunately pain follows us where we go, so be prepared. Have your pain medications, heat/cold pack, your lotions and rubs, special pillow – whatever you use to help you deal with pain.

Check out our resource Managing your pain: An A-Z guide. It’ll give you lots of practical information about ways you can manage your pain – many of which you can do wherever you are – at home, on a plane, in another part of the country.

Travel insurance

Even if you’re travelling in Australia and not overseas, travel insurance could be a good idea. It can cover things like lost or stolen luggage, car hire excess claims and cancelled flights. Make sure you know exactly what you’re covered for. And shop around and find insurance that’s best suits your needs. This article by Choice has some useful info to help you decide whether travel insurance is for you: Do you need domestic travel insurance? Will travel insurance cover you when things go wrong on an Aussie holiday?

And be aware that travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for anything relating to COVID now that it’s a ’known event’. Read this article by Choice to find out more: Does travel insurance cover the COVID-19 pandemic? What you’re covered for in the event of an epidemic or pandemic like coronavirus. 

And speaking of COVID

Make sure you follow the guidelines for wherever you’re visiting. Are masks required? Are there restrictions on how many people can gather? Do you need to quarantine? Do you need a border pass? Visit the health website of the state or territory you’re travelling within to get the latest info.

And continue to:

  • wash your hands regularly
  • physically distance yourself from others
  • stay home if you’re unwell and get tested
  • cough and/or sneeze into your elbow
  • wear a mask if you can’t distance yourself (or if it’s required)
  • use hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to soap and water.

Just because numbers of active cases are low in most parts of the country, we can’t afford to be complacent. And doing these things keeps you safe and puts you in control, which can help you manage your feelings of anxiety or stress about COVID.

Coming home

  • Rest up. After your trip, give yourself a day or so to unpack and rest before leaping back into your daily schedule.
  • If you’re feeling stiff or sore consider getting a massage, or seeing your therapist of choice – physio/osteo/chiro/myo.
  • Talk the ears off your family, friends, doctor and work colleagues about your trip and the sights, smells and experiences you enjoyed. Before you know it you’ll be dreaming about, and planning, your next adventure.

Other options for travel

You may not be up to travelling far afield – physically and/or mentally it may not be right for you at the moment. This is completely understandable. It’s been a crazy year and we’re all dealing with it in the best way we can. But there are other options:

  • Take a day trip or two. It’s amazing how much you can see in a day. And we’re so lucky in Australia with all of the beautiful places we can visit. Just Google day trips and your location and you’ll find some great ideas for your next adventure.
  • Plan for the future. Just because you’re not ready to travel now, doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future. So dream about where you’d like to go. Do some research and start making plans. And when you’re ready to travel, you’ll be all set!
  • Vacation at home. Put your phone, computer and chores away and toss your normal routine out the window. Do fun things, creative things, relaxing things. Cook special meals. Relax in the garden with a book. Throw a dance party with everyone who lives in your house – or by yourself. Dress in fancy clothes. Build a fort in the middle of the lounge. Grab a colouring book and pencils and spend some quality time colouring. Do things that make you happy and make you feel like you’ve had a break. You deserve it.

Call our Help Line

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

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21/Oct/2020

Or how to manage fatigue

We all get tired. We overdo things and feel physically exhausted. It happens to us all. Usually after a night or two of good quality sleep the tiredness goes away and we’re back to our old selves.

But fatigue is different.

It’s an almost overwhelming physical and/or mental tiredness. And it usually takes more than a night’s sleep to resolve. It generally requires multiple strategies, working together, to help you get it under control.

Many people living with a musculoskeletal condition struggle with fatigue. It may be caused by a chronic lack of sleep, your medications, depression, your actual condition (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia) or just the very fact that you live with persistent pain.

Fatigue can make everyday activities difficult, and can get in the way of you doing the things you enjoy. The good news is there are many things you can do to manage fatigue and get on with life.

Exercise and being active. While this may sound like the last thing you should do when you’re feeling fatigued, exercise can actually boost your energy levels, help you sleep better, improve your mood, and it can help you manage your pain. If you’re starting an exercise program, start slowly, listen to your body and seek advice from qualified professionals. Gradually increase the amount and intensity of activity over time.

Take time out for you. Relaxation – both physical and mental – can help you manage your fatigue. I’m not just talking about finishing work and plonking down in front of the TV – though that may be one way you relax and wind down. I’m specifically referring to the deliberate letting go of the tension in your muscles and mind. There are so many ways to relax including deep breathing, visualisation, gardening, progressive muscle relaxation, listening to music, guided imagery, reading a book, taking a warm bubble bath, meditating, going for a walk. Choose whatever works for you. Now set aside a specific time every day to relax – and choose a time when you’re unlikely to be interrupted or distracted. Put it in your calendar – as you would any other important event – and practise, practise, practise. Surprisingly it takes time to become really good at relaxing, but it’s totally worth the effort. By using relaxation techniques, you can reduce stress and anxiety (which can make you feel fatigued), and feel more energised.

Eat a well-balanced diet. A healthy diet gives your body the energy and nutrients it needs to work properly, helps you maintain a healthy weight, protects you against other health conditions and is vital for a healthy immune system. Make sure you drink enough water, and try and limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume.

And take a note out of the Scout’s handbook and ‘be prepared’. Consider making some healthy meals that you can freeze for the days when you’re not feeling so hot. You’ll then have some healthy options you can quickly plate up to ensure you’re eating well without having to use a lot of energy.

Get a good night’s sleep. Good quality sleep makes such a difference when you live with pain and fatigue. It can sometimes be difficult to achieve, but there are many things you can do to sleep well, that will decrease your fatigue and make you feel human again. Check out our blog on painsomnia for more info and tips.

Pace yourself. It’s an easy trap to fall into. On the days you feel great you do as much as possible – you push on and on and overdo it. Other days you avoid doing stuff because fatigue has sapped away all of your energy. By pacing yourself you can do the things you want to do by finding the right balance between rest and activity. Some tips for pacing yourself: plan your day, prioritise your activities (not everything is super important or has to be done immediately), break your jobs into smaller tasks, alternate physical jobs with less active ones, and ask for help if you need it.

Write lists and create habits. When you’re fatigued, remembering what you need at the shops, where you left your keys, if you’ve taken your meds or what your name is, can be a challenge. And when you’re constantly forgetting stuff, it can make you stress and worry about all the things you can’t remember. Meh – it’s a terrible cycle. So write it down. Write down the things you need at the supermarket as soon as you think of it –a notepad on the fridge is a really easy way to do this. Create habits around your everyday tasks – for example always put your keys in a bowl by the door or straight into your bag, put your meds in a pill organiser.

Be kind to yourself. Managing fatigue and developing new ways to pace yourself is a challenge. Like any new behaviour it takes time, effort and lots of practice. So be kind to yourself and be patient. You’ll get there. It may take some time, and there may be some stumbles along the way, but you will become an expert at listening to your body, pacing yourself and managing fatigue.

Talk with your doctor. Sometimes fatigue may be caused by medications you’re taking to manage your musculoskeletal condition. If you think your medications are the issue, talk with your doctor about alternatives that may be available.

Fatigue may also be caused by another health condition – including anaemia (not having enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body), diabetes, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia and being overweight. If you’re not having any success getting your fatigue under control, your doctor may suggest looking into other potential causes.

So that’s fatigue…it can be difficult to live with, but there are lots of ways you can learn to manage it.

Tell us how you manage. We’d love to hear your top tips for dealing with fatigue.

Call our Help Line

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

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27/Aug/2020

Have you noticed that the mornings are becoming lighter earlier? The weather’s improving and there’s the smell of spring blossoms in the air. It’s lovely. Take a moment to breathe it in – you’ll definitely feel a lift in your mood (unless you have allergies – sorry about that).

But with the change in the season, the extra light and the warmer weather, we often use this time to do a spring clean. Of our home, office, garden, garage. Many of us have been tackling some of these jobs while we’ve been in iso. But as we’re staying at home more than ever before, it seems that some jobs continue to pile up – there are kids toys and clutter everywhere, the home office/dining table has become a mess, the pets are shedding on EVERYTHING, and why are there so many pairs of shoes heaped near the front door?!?! It’s definitely time to do a spring clean.

But cleaning and re-organising can take a toll on you when you live with a musculoskeletal condition and chronic pain and fatigue. So we’ve put together some tips and hacks to help you with Spring Clean 2020.

General tips

  • Planning, prioritising and pacing. First, make a plan. You can’t do everything at once. So write down all of the things you want to do. Now prioritise the jobs. What’s most important? And when you consider this, remember your home doesn’t need to be a home magazine or Pinterest version of ‘perfect’. That takes a lot of styling and constant effort. It just needs to be your version of ‘perfect’ – comfortable and cosy for you and whoever you live with. Now on to pacing. Take your time when you tackle your cleaning. Break it into smaller tasks. For example don’t decide you need to organise and clean your entire bedroom cupboard in one go. Break it up. Just deal with your shoes today. Tomorrow you can focus on the things stored on shelves. Make it achievable and realistic for you and how you’re feeling at this moment.
  • Take breaks. Often the temptation is to get as much done as you can while you’re feeling good or you’re feeling motivated. But you need to take breaks so that you don’t overdo it. Otherwise before you know it your back’s sore, you can’t move your neck and exhaustion hits you like a sledgehammer. To prevent this happening, and the potential of having a flare because you’ve done too much, set an alarm. Give yourself a specific amount of time to work and when the alarm goes off, take a break. Do some stretches, drink some water, go outside for some air and vitamin D and if you’re hungry, have a healthy snack. Do this regularly throughout the day and you’ll feel much better by the time you finish than if you’d pushed through.
  • Get the right tools for the jobs. Use light-weight brooms, mops and vacuums. Many people swear by the robotic vacuums because they don’t require you to bend over a vacuum or drag it throughout the house. Just be aware of where they are so you don’t trip on them. Use long-handled dusters so you don’t have to stretch or reach your arms above your head if you find that painful. If you don’t have one you can secure your duster to a ruler or even the empty roll from some wrapping paper to give you the extra length.
  • Choose your battles. If you need to vacuum, but you’re not feeling up to doing your entire home, don’t. Just do the high traffic areas. Or a high traffic area. If your bathroom needs cleaning, do the high use areas. Your shower screen doesn’t need to sparkle, but you do need clean towels and a clean sink.
  • Let the cleaning products do the hard work. How often do you read the instructions on your cleaning products? Or do you just spray and wipe away? I know I’m guilty of that! But many cleaning products need time to work on the grunge and grime. Then you can wipe it and the dirt away, with far less effort.
  • Beware of dust and toxic smells. Many people with musculoskeletal and other chronic conditions are sensitive to chemicals, strong smells and/or dust. Some alternatives to the usual cleaning products include bicarb soda, vinegar, tea tree oil, lemon juice and water. There are many websites that provide details for making your own cleaning products. You can also buy a large range of more natural and plant-based cleaning products online and from the supermarket. As far as dust goes, dusters can just move it from your surfaces to the air around you. Use a slightly damp cloth over surfaces to remove dust completely, and clean it regularly.
  • Use your dishwasher for more than dishes. Did you know you can clean plastic toys, exhaust covers, scrubbing brushes, oven racks and dog toys in your dishwasher? Check out this article: Can you wash it in the dishwasher? The big list of things you can and can’t wash in the dishwasher from Choice for more info.
  • Consider reorganising your pantry, laundry or kitchen. These are the areas we use a lot. And they often have heavy things we use regularly – e.g. heavy packets of rice, canned goods, pots and pans, detergents and cleaning products. Put these items at waist level (if you have the space) so you aren’t constantly bending or stretching to access them.
  • Get some wheels. A basket of wet washing and buckets full of water and detergent are really heavy. Instead use a laundry trolley and a mop bucket with wheels.
  • Repackage it. We often buy cleaning products in bulk as it tends to be cheaper that way. But that can end up being several kilos or litres. So when you buy the big box or big bottle of cleaning products, put a quantity into smaller, easier to use containers. You can top them up when you need to. And make sure you label the new containers clearly.
  • Alternate your cleaning activities. If you’ve spent some time doing physically tiring cleaning, take a break and do something more passive, like sitting at your desk and cleaning out your email inbox, or going through receipts for your tax return. Or take a break and read a book or do some guided imagery. Then when/if you feel up to more physical work you can go back to it. But you’ve given your body a chance to rest.
  • Get the family involved. This is an obvious one, but often such a drama many people just do the chores themselves. But that’s not sustainable. Also, as everyone contributes to the mess, everyone needs to contribute to the cleaning. Make a game of it if you can. Check out this article: 15 cleaning games that make even the most boring chores fun from Mumtastic for some suggestions.
  • De-clutter. When we have a build-up of clutter and just everyday things invading our space, they become a trip hazard. And when you have lots of stuff around you, you may feel disorganised and out of control. While not everyone will feel this way, here are some ways to tackle the clutter.
    • Make a plan and start small. Don’t tackle a big job, especially if you’re not feeling your best, or you can easily become overwhelmed.
    • Organise the clutter. Put like things together so you can see what you have and what’s been hiding at the back of cupboards and drawers. That’s when you realise you’ve got 5 staplers and 6 vegetable peelers.
    • Decide what you want to keep, and what’s just taking up valuable space. Then you need to decide what to do with the things you no longer want. So donate, give away, sell, repurpose or throw away (only if it’s damaged/worn out/soiled/beyond repair – let’s not add to landfill if we can help it).
    • Now put away the things you’ve decided to keep. Everything should have its own place.
  • Hire someone. This isn’t an option for everyone, or not for every time, but there might be occasions you decide it’s worth the cost. Consider hiring a local handy person/business to help you deal with your lawns/gardening, or cleaning your carpets, curtains or blinds.
  • Distract yourself with music, podcasts and audio books. This can make the cleaning more enjoyable, just don’t become so distracted you overdo things.
  • Give your medicine cabinet a spring clean too. Get rid of out of date or unnecessary items. But don’t throw medications in the bin – take them to your local pharmacy for disposal.
  • Things don’t have to be perfect. So give yourself a break. This is one thing that as a clean freak I’ve struggled with. Listening to your body and doing things that are realistic for you is more important than some idea of perfection that’s unsustainable (or unattainable). Accept that and just enjoy being in your home.

Hacks

  • Save your hands. Use cleaning mitts instead of cleaning cloths. There are a lot available – for dusting, cleaning the shower, kitchen and the car. Or you can use odd socks – we all have plenty of those. Wear the mitts or the socks on your hands as you clean, rather than clutching a cloth. It’s much easier on the joints in your hands.
  • Add soft grips to the handles of brooms/mops if you find them painful to grip. An easy hack is to use pipe insulation foam. This is just a tube shaped foam. You can pick it up at the hardware store, cut it to size and slide it onto your broom or mop handle.
  • For easy cleaning of louvre or Venetian style blinds, put a couple of old socks on a pair of kitchen tongs and secure them in place with elastic bands. You can then run them over each of the slats of the blinds to remove dust.
  • Remove dust and pet fur from lamp shades with a lint roller.
  • Store your sheet sets in the matching pillow case. This keeps them together as a set, keeps your closet tidy and you know you have all the pieces when you make your bed.
  • Rubber gloves are great for removing pet fur from fabric furniture. Just put them on and slide your hand over the fabric. You can then peel the fur off the gloves and throw it in the bin.
  • Dirty microwave? No problems. Put some water in a cup or bowl and microwave it until the water boils. You can also add some white vinegar for a better clean. Carefully remove the water and clean the steam from the inside surfaces of the microwave. Any grunge should come away at the same time, without scrubbing. If you want you can add some lemon juice to the water before you microwave it for a fresh smell.
  • Smelly bin? Empty it and clean the inside with a damp cloth and some bicarb soda. Rinse it out. When it’s dry, add a little bicarb and paper towel to the bottom of your bin to keep it smelling fresh and to sop up any liquids. Bicarb is also good if your fridge is a bit on the nose. Clear your fridge out, getting rid of anything out of date, clean the inside properly, then add an open box of bicarb to the back of your fridge. It’ll absorb odours. Don’t forget to change it regularly.

Got some tips or hacks to share? We’d love to hear them.

Call our Help Line

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

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22/Apr/2020

16 December 2021 – This blog was written during the first year of the pandemic and thankfully so much has changed since then! Most of the eligible population is vaccinated and we’re able to travel and see our family and friends. Hooray! But we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, so ensuring our self-care plans reflect our current circumstances is still very important.

Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed and frustrated by 2020? You’re not alone! It’s been a bumpy ride so far. Filled with uncertainty, new pressures, lots of unknowns and a lack of control, many of us are feeling anxious, upset and vulnerable. When you have a musculoskeletal condition and live with regular pain and fatigue, the urge to retreat to your warm, cosy bed and pull the covers over your head can be very tempting.

But you’re strong – you’re a mighty warrior living with a chronic condition/s. You can take control of the situation and do something proactive by examining your self-care plan. Ask yourself – “is my pre-COVID self-care plan realistic now? Or does it need updating in light of the changes to my world?”

What is self-care

Self-care involves the things you deliberately do to take care of your physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. It’s the things you plan for (e.g. water exercise classes, visiting your specialist) and you make time for (e.g. mindfulness, taking your dog for a walk, talking with a friend).

You often see articles about self-care with pictures of day spas, yoga retreats and people exercising on the beach at sunset. All wonderful things to do to take care of your health – but when you live with a chronic condition, and you live with pain and sometimes crippling exhaustion, life’s not that glamorous.

So to create a self-care plan for yourself that’s realistic and achievable during isolation, throw those ideas out the window and let’s get real. Start by recognising and appreciating the things that you can do right now.

Some mornings it’s all you can do to get out of bed, let alone shower. So the very basics of self-care involve good quality sleep, a nutritious diet, exercise, looking after your mental health and keeping yourself and your home clean. If you have family, then you have that added responsibility as well, especially at the moment if you’re home schooling while juggling work.

So wow – that’s already a lot! So let’s break it down into bite-size chunks

Get some sleep

Easier said than done I hear you say. But getting good quality sleep is crucial for our everyday functioning. If it’s an issue for you, especially at the moment, part of your 2020 self-care plan may be to look at ways you can improve your sleep quality and quantity. We have resources to help you – including nurses you can speak to on our Help Line (see details at bottom) and info on our website. Or if it’s a problem you feel you need extra help with, talk with your doctor (in person or via a telehealth consultation) to get professional help.

Eat a healthy, nutritious diet

While it’s tempting when you’re feeling crappy to eat foods you think of as comforting (e.g chocolate, cheese, ice cream, biscuits, alcohol) you need to enjoy them in moderation. While they may make you happy for a while, it’s only temporary. Too much of a good thing can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Eating a variety of healthy foods, in a range of colours (eat the rainbow) will make you feel better overall and will give you more energy. And on the days you’re feeling great, prepare some healthy meals you can pop in the freezer for the days you’re feeling lousy.

Stay active

Exercise is so important when you have a chronic condition, but when you can no longer access your warm water exercise class or your tai chi group, finding a new exercise program can be daunting. If you’re looking online, it can sometimes be hard to judge if the exercise will help or hinder you. We’ve created some information about exercising during this time – including some tips about how you can stay active, as well as how to judge whether an online video or app is right for you. If you need some expert help and guidance, talk with your doctor about seeing an exercise physiologist, a physiotherapist or a sports and exercise physician. You can access them via a telehealth consultation or visit them in person.

Take care of your mental health

It’s really easy when you’re constantly surrounded by virus talk to become overwhelmed. Especially if you’re worried about your health, family, work and finances. And when you’re stressed and not looking after yourself properly, it can affect all aspects of your life including your family (and many of us are living in tight quarters at the moment), your ability to focus on work properly, sleep well, eat well…and so it becomes a vicious cycle.

The good news is there are lots of things you can do to look after your mental health during this time (read our blog for tips and strategies) including getting professional help if you need it. Again you can access the help you need in person or via a telehealth consultation. Talk with your doctor if you want more information about getting professional help.

But a really simple thing you can do immediately is to limit your exposure to all things COVID – pick a time when you’ll catch up on what’s happening – for example the evening news or morning bulletin – and then turn it off and tune it out.

Cleaning – plan, prioritise and pace

Cleaning – yourself, your kids, your home can be an enormous challenge. Hands up if there are days you feel like you need a nap after having a shower in the morning? It happens to most of us living with chronic pain at one time or another. For some more frequently than others. But the best thing you can do is to plan, prioritise and pace yourself.

Even before you get out of bed, while you’re lying in your cocoon, plan what you would like to do during the day. Maybe have a notepad and pen beside your bed, or use a note app on your phone and write it all down. OK, seeing it in one place, you can see that it’s a lot.

So now to the second P – prioritise. What are the things you really need to do? Do you really need to wash your hair today, or can you use the dry shampoo? Do you really need to vacuum the entire house, or just the living area? Do you really need to do 15,000 steps today, or do you need to take it down a notch. You know how you’re feeling on any given day – so plan, then prioritise.

Which then brings us to the 3rd P – pacing. Whatever you’re doing – cleaning, exercising, cooking, working, gardening, playing with the kids – pace yourself. It’s not a race – so be generous with your time, build in space for rest breaks.

And this brings us to the 4th P – peeing…after lying in bed thinking about all of this, you now need to rush to the loo ?

And finally, when it comes to cleaning – don’t forget hand washing. We need to do it regularly and thoroughly. We also need to be careful how we cough, sneeze and blow our noses. And avoid touching our face. Check out our hygiene 101 blog for more info.

Make time for the things you enjoy

When you’ve given the basics of your self-care plan some TLC and revised it for the current world, now take some time to consider other aspects of self-care. You may not have the time, energy or inclination to do these sorts of things most days, but schedule time to do the things that make you really happy, or relaxed, or pampered at least once a week – like a bubble bath, taking an hour to curl up with a good book, having a moment of peace and quiet in your garden to relax, doing a jigsaw puzzle, video chat with your bestie. We all need these moments to help us recharge, especially when life is so crazy and unsettled.

Contact our free national Help Line

Our nurses are available weekdays between 9am-5pm to take your calls (1800 263 265), emails (helpline@msk.org.au) or messages via Messenger. So if you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services – contact them today.

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19/Mar/2020

Didn’t think we’d ever be writing those words!

Update – 28 April 2020. This blog has been updated in line with the new restrictions on gatherings and physical distancing, and to include a video from Dr Adam Castricum Sport and Exercise Physician on the importance of being physically active during isolation.

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on our worlds – our health, travel, work, finances, schooling, family life, and all the little freedoms we once took for granted. Isolation has seen our physical world become much smaller.

While we struggle with all of these things, an important area when it comes to our health that many of us are finding difficult to wrap our heads and bodies around is getting enough exercise.

If you live with a musculoskeletal condition like arthritis, back pain or osteoporosis you know how important exercise and being active is. It helps us manage our condition, our pain, our weight, and our mental health. It also helps us sleep better and gives us the opportunity to socialise with others.

However not being able to attend our classes, fitness centres and sporting clubs means we need to look at alternative ways to exercise.

Here’s a few ideas to help you stay active during the pandemic:

  • Schedule time for it. Our lives have turned upside down, so having a regular routine, including time for exercise is really important, for both our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing.
  • Exercise with others. Grab your family and go for a bike ride, walk around the park, shoot hoops in the driveway, play leapfrog on the lawn. Or connect with friends via video apps and exercise together. Along with having a regular time for exercise, having an exercise buddy – whether in person or online – will help keep you motivated and accountable.
  • Get outside and go for a walk, jog or run. It’s still a great way to stay active. If you’re doing it with a friend, make sure you’re abiding by the latest restrictions regarding gatherings and physical distancing. And don’t forget – COVID-19 doesn’t spread to our dogs, so take them for a walk. They’ll love it! And avoid walking, jogging or running in busy areas, or during busy times.
  • Use an old fashioned DVD and exercise in front of your TV. Or stream an exercise program online. Or use an exercise app. There are so many to choose from. Just make sure that the exercises are performed by people who know what they’re doing.
  • Dance around the house. Get the blood pumping with some of your favourite, high energy music, and shake it off!
  • Walk/run/skip around your home and yard – use the space you have available. At the beginning of the Chinese lockdown there was news of a man who ran a marathon in his own apartment! While you don’t have to go to that extreme, it highlights that you can do all kinds of things in small spaces if you’re a little creative.
  • If you have a WII Fit, or any of the electronic karaoke/guitar/music games that plug into your TV, set it up and go for it. Sing, dance and game to your hearts content. If you don’t have any of the electronics, just do some air guitar or air drumming. We’ve all done it, and it’s so much fun.
  • Get creative! One of our families has told us about how they’re blowing up balloons and using them as balls. For example, keeping them off the ground while they sit on opposite sides of the table, hitting balloons with fly swats and other improvised rackets for a game of tennis. We can be very creative when we need to be – let your inner exercise guru loose!
  • Use what you have around the house. You may already have exercise balls/bands and weights to use, or you can improvise with cans of soup for weights, steps ups on your stairs etc.
  • Incorporate incidental exercise. Check out our blog on how the little bits and pieces you do over the course of your day – for example cleaning, talking on the phone – can be made more active and really add up.
  • Go for a ride. Use an indoor stationary bike, or hit the streets or park on your bicycle.
  • Consider hiring or buying (new or second hand) exercise equipment such as a treadmill, exercise bike or cross-trainer. You can use the equipment to add variety to your exercise program, and it’ll also come in handy for those days it’s too wet or cold to venture outdoors.

There are lots of things you can do to remain active during this pandemic, and stay safe. These are just some of them. For more information, visit our website or call our MSK Help line weekdays on 1800 263 265. Or email helpline@msk.org.au.

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31/Jan/2020

With our crazy, busy lives it can sometimes feel next to impossible to squeeze in time for exercise. Add to that the unpredictability of living with a chronic condition, and our planned activities can often go flying out the door.

But there are things you can do to be more active. Incidental exercise – or the little bits and pieces you do over the course of your day – can really add up. It’s important to note that incidental exercise should not replace your regular, structured exercise program, but they’re a great way to boost your activity levels.

Here are some things you can do to increase your incidental exercise.

  • Watching TV? Whether you’re watching the latest episode of your favourite show or binge watching an entire series, get up and move around during the ads. No ads? No problems. At the end of each episode, do something active. Go outside and check the letterbox. Take the dog for a walk around the block. If you have an exercise bike or treadmill, use it while watching your show.
  • Love reading? Download an audio book and listen to it as you go for a walk. Just be mindful about how far you walk. It’s easy to get caught up in a book and walk further than you planned! Which has the potential to aggravate your condition and pain levels if you do too much.
  • Going for a long drive? Make your journey more interesting, and more active by scheduling stops for you to stretch, walk around and discover new areas. It’s amazing what you can find when you take the time to explore.
  • Shopping? Park your car a little further away from the shops than you normally would. Walk up or down the travellator or escalator – even if it’s just for part of the ride – rather than just standing in place.
  • Work meeting? Take it outside. Suggest that you have walking meeting. You get to be active and less sedentary, with the added benefit of fresh air.
  • Catching public transport? Get off a stop before your usual one. Explore your neighbourhood while getting some exercise and breathing deeply.
  • On the phone? Walk around while chatting, rather than sitting down. But avoid moving about if you’re texting or looking at your screen. Our aim is to increase activity levels safely, not get injured in the process!
  • Gaming? Fun! But it’s so easy to get caught up in the heat of the battle/chase/adventure, so set your phone alarm to go off every 30 minutes so you can get up and move.
  • Cleaning? Go hard. Give the tiles an extra vigorous scrub. Flatten your recyclables rather than just tossing them straight into your recycling bin. Clean your windows (groan – but how good do they look when you’re done?). Vacuum the house and use all of the little attachments (who knew they made such a difference?).

Obviously there’ll be times when these activities are not possible or practical – especially if you’re having a flare. However some of them may actually help with your pain – things like standing and moving when your back is really sore, breaking up long trips with stops and stretches – they’ll provide exercise and pain relief.

Give incidental exercise a try. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling more energised and noticing a difference with your pain levels, sleep quality and mood.

Plus your house will be sparkling! Win-win!

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27/May/2018

Gardening, pain and musculoskeletal conditions

Gardening’s a wonderful way to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. It can also be extremely relaxing, and it’s often a good workout.

But if your condition sometimes impacts on your ability to garden, there are many things you can do so that you can still get into your garden and enjoy yourself.

  • Pace yourself – don’t try to do too much in one go. And take regular breaks. This’s a good opportunity to rest – but also to sit back and admire your work, contemplate what to do next, and imagine future gardening projects.
  • Contain it – use pots and other containers for small, manageable gardens. You can use regular garden pots or containers, or be creative and use other containers you have lying around – e.g. old wheelbarrows, teapots, colanders, tyres, boots. Check out Pinterest for some great ideas.
  • Create raised garden beds – this will take a bit more planning and work, but by raising your garden beds you can access them with less bending or kneeling. Perfect if you have a sore back, hips or knees.
  • Use thick handled tools – there are a wide range of thicker handled garden tools that are great if you have painful hands or difficulty gripping. You can also buy thick rubber or foam tubing from the hardware store, cut it to length and fit it over the handles of your existing gardening tools.
  • Use cushioned knee supports – knees pads, kneeling mats, or even gardening stools can help cushion and protect your knees and help you get up and down off the ground.
  • Get some help – whether it’s family, friends, or a local handyman or gardener, get some help if you have some big jobs that need doing – e.g. creating raised garden beds, pruning trees, mowing lawns. You don’t have to do everything yourself.
  • Keep hydrated – make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Gardening can be hot, strenuous work, so don’t let yourself become dehydrated. Keep a water bottle close by.
  • Talk with an OT – an occupational therapist can help you find ways to modify your activities to reduce joint pain and fatigue and save energy. They can also give you tips and ideas about different aids and equipment available.

These are just a few things you can do to stay active in the garden, so that you can get out in the fresh air and enjoy getting your hands dirty. If you love to garden, and have suggestions or tips for others, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.




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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