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19/Jan/2022

by Anne Lloyde, MSK Help Line Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to take care of your skin:

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

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

Staying active

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

Some general tips for exercising safely in summer:

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

Storing your medications in hot weather

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

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

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

Preparing meals in summer and for special occasions

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

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

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

Medical cooling concessions and rebates

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

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

Tips for surviving the summer from our volunteers

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

Contact our free national Help Line

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

More to explore


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21/Jan/2018

The final instalment of our staff summer reading suggestions.

Enjoy the mix of fiction and non-fiction, and hopefully you’re inspired to read something new, different and exciting.

And finally, in the words of Voltaire “Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.” Enjoy!!

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
This is Latin American magical realism at its finest and my favourite book. It’s absurd, funny, poetic and haunting.

National Geographic Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary
I love a good photo book, and Nat Geo probably does it the best. Every page you turn you marvel and wonder at the extraordinary things to be found in our world. Stunning.

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
This autobiography is by a 37 year old neurosurgeon, dying from stage 4 lung cancer. In his book, he reflects on life – what it means to live a meaningful life and what makes life worth living. It’s a hard book to read at times, but extremely moving. Have a box of tissues nearby when you read this one.

1666: Plague, War and Hellfire – Rebecca Rideal
If you lived in England in 1666, yikes! You were at risk of contracting the plague, England was at war with the Dutch, and the Great Fire of London devastated the city. But alongside this, some amazing progress was being made in art and science. This historical text is brought to life in vivid detail through the eyes of some of the important people of the time – from Newton to Milton to Wren. It’s a fascinating read.

Working Class Boy and Working Class Man – Jimmy Barnes
Jimmy Barnes is one of Australia’s most enduring music legends. With his first book he explores his childhood – and I’m amazed he lived through the violence, drugs and excess to become a force in the music industry. I’m halfway through his second book, and it’s as gripping as the first. I love the insight these honest and gritty books give us about Barnesy.

Quick & Easy 5-Ingredient Food – Jamie Oliver
Our last book is a little different, in that it’s a cookbook. However several of our staff recommended it for our summer reading list. And really, summer is the time when many of us have a little extra time to have fun and experiment in the kitchen. In typical Jamie style, the recipes are easy to follow and delicious. And by using 5 key ingredients, as well as staples from your cupboard, it’s cooking that many of us can do…no muss, no fuss.


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10/Jan/2018

Our staff love to read, so we had to make this a 3-parter. There were just too many books!

If any of these books have tickled your fancy, go out and grab a copy from your local bookstore, from the library, from a friend or download a copy onto a mobile device. Also check out your local op shop – it’s amazing what books you can find there.

Finally, if you love the sound of these books, but you aren’t much of a reader, check out subscription audio book services such as Audible, or the audio book collection at your library.

Goldfinch – Donna Tart
I loved it. Couldn’t put in down. Fabulous characters and you can’t wait to see what happens to them. It’s amazing story told through a young teenage boys eyes as he comes to terms with a life changing event centred around a classic art piece in the back drop of the underworld art trade – never cried so much as I did with this book.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe
If you love the absurd, with some maths and physics thrown in, you’ll enjoy this book a lot. The author answers strange, wacky and wonderful hypothetical questions he’s sent by his readers. So if you’ve ever wondered ‘if the moon would change colour if every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at it?’ or ‘what would it be like if you travelled in time to the same place 1,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, or forward in time 1,000,000 years?’ The author gives detailed explanations and reasoning. Lots of interesting, nerdy fun.

Tex – Tex Perkins
Aussie bad boy of rock Tex Perkins – front man of Beasts of Bourbon and The Cruel Sea – writes about the good, the bad and most definitely ugly times of Aussie rock’n’roll. Getting into this book took me back to the days of going to pubs and letting lose to Tex’s gravelly voice as he belted out everything from punk to country.

Fishing for Stars (The Persimmon Tree #2) – Bryce Courtenay
Such an interesting fictional telling of a story about life, love, politics and business across Vanuatu and Australia. Like all Courtenay books it’s at times heavy, at times light-hearted. Thoroughly recommend.

The Savage Detectives – Roberto Bolagno
The way that Bolagno writes, particularly this book, makes me feel alive and in love with life.

Wind up Bird Chronicle and IQ84 – Haruki Murakami
Both of these books are totally out there in terms of story line!

One is about a guy whose wife goes missing and then shuts himself up in a well where he can strangely melt into the walls and end up in other places. The other is about an assassin who takes a wrong turn and finds herself in a parallel universe where there are two moons and strange doppelgangers. All in all, I couldn’t put either of those down.

The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb
Hobb is an amazing fantasy writer. I love the story, the characters and especially her writing style, really rich and engaging. You can escape into these books for hours. These books have heart and she shares life lessons she’s learnt through the characters and the events that happen to them and how they deal with them. This makes them memorable and some of the best fantasy I’ve ever read.


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02/Jan/2018

Summer’s here!!

For many of us, this’s a time to recharge, relax and rest so we’re in the best possible shape to begin the new year. Well, once all the holiday festivities are out of the way!! And what better way to relax than to get caught up in a book?

Our staff have provided brief descriptions of some of their favourite reads. From fiction to non-fiction, fantasy to biography, there’s something here for everyone. Enjoy!

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) – Jo Nesbo
I’m a big fan of the Jo Nesbo Detective Harry Hole series – and his latest is a ripper, literally. There’s nothing like a chilling Nordic thriller to while away the hot summer days!

Meditation: An In-Depth Guide – Ian Gawler & Paul Bedson
I loved this book because it explains how meditation is used to help heal pain and illness and it’s a practical guide which is great for someone who is a bit overwhelmed by the practice of meditation i.e. ME! A great tool to help you get in touch with your inner peace.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
This series is an oldie, but such a goodie. Laugh out loud craziness as Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman, is rescued from Earth seconds before it’s destruction to make way for a galactic freeway.

1491: Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – Charles C. Mann
1491 is a fascinating and creative non-fiction story, about the exploration of pre-Columbian Americas, and the indigenous people who lived there. It is an enjoyable and captivating read, filled with adventure and insight.

The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
Love this fantasy book series. What’s not to love about Harry Dresden, a wizard private investigator in modern day Chicago. They’re fun, fast-paced books that’ll have you reaching for the next book in the series in no time.

Books That Changed History: From the Art of War to Anne Frank’s Diary
This is a beautiful book to read. It features over 75 of the world’s most celebrated, rare, and important books – from 3000 BCE to the modern day. Each book is thoroughly explored, with gorgeous photos and insightful text. If you love books, you’ll adore this one.

The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena
‘You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall’ I just finished this psychological thriller. Didn’t want it to end.




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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