Expert tips: A physiotherapist on those staying at home
Aim to move at least every 30 minutes at work. Take stretch breaks
Assess your work set up, and strive for good posture if sitting at a computer. Photograph: iStock
Clíodhna Ní Choisdealbha is a chartered physiotherapist and has worked extensively in sport – including as lead physiotherapist for the IRFU Irish Women’s Seven’s programme, and more recently with the Irish women’s hockey team and Galway camogie. A musician, she has a particular interest in injuries and strains that musicians experience. Here she shares her tips and links for those staying at home.
We have started doing online consultations. We’re seeing an array of injuries and issues, from those with chronic pain to post-operative cases. More recently, we have seen a number of DIY and spring-cleaning related injuries.
That’s not unusual for this time of year, when we see a spike in lower back pain, shoulder pain and tendinous injuries associated with sudden high volumes of physical work. To avoid overdoing it, plan your activities. Instead of doing everything in one day, break tasks up into a more consistent workload for your week. Include breaks and stretches, particularly after sustained positions.
We work with some of the industries in Galway, supporting occupational health. While some have continued to work, or have been returning to work, many are still at home, often in less than ideal ergonomic positions using less than ideal work stations. Because of childcare issues, many people are also condensing working hours and taking less breaks, leading to longer times spent sitting in poor positions.
If you are working from home, move often. Aim for every 30 minutes. Take stretch breaks. Assess your work set-up, and strive for good posture if sitting at a computer. If you have access to an ergonomic health professional at work, contact them for guidance with your work-station set-up.
We have recently started running some exercise classes online through Zoom. It’s working well so far. We also have a number of classes available for anyone to use for free through our website (galwaycityphysiotherapy.com). These include a basic Level I Pilates class, a mobility sequence, and a cocooners baseline strength class.
For those still cocooning, we see a two-fold problem. The first is the cohort of people who don’t exercise much normally, and may be much less mobile than usual.
As we get older, we tend to lose muscle mass and strength. This is called sarcopenia, and is related to poor quality of life and physical disability.
Reduced levels of daily physical activity will compound this. A daily mobility routine and some gentle weights, for example tinned food from your kitchen press, will add huge value to well-being and health while you remain at home.
The second problem is that we see a large number of over70s who are very active, such as hikers and runners. Given they usually exercise at a very high level, this group has been incredibly restricted. They need to be challenged with appropriately high level exercise programmes. Online home exercise plans can be tailored to individuals. Contact your chartered physiotherapist, especially if you have a history of injury.
With any change in daily habits and activity, it’s important that people don’t forget to recover. Expect some soreness after doing a new task or exercise, but remember to warm up and cool down with exercise. Gentle stretching, keeping mobile, and using a foam roller may help muscles in the days following exercise.
If you’ve decided to take up a musical instrument, or have significantly increased your practice time, be aware that any new and repetitive workload for muscles needs attention afterwards.
Stretching in the same way you might after exercise can help you get back to practicing the following day. Increase your awareness of any stiff parts of your body, and focus on moving and stretching these first.
If you need to manage an acute injury, remember the acronym Police.
Protection of the injured area. Optimal Loading. Ice. Compress. Elevate.
Note on Optimal Loading: (All bone, tendon, ligament and muscle need some degree of load to stimulate healing, for example, with a sprained ankle, moving the calf and ankle can help manage swelling in the initial phase without aggravating the injury.)
If in doubt, call a professional. During these times where GPs are under huge stress with very high levels of calls, get in touch with your local chartered physiotherapist.
We are continuing to support many of our athletes, across all ages, who are struggling without structured training, and often without the support of a team around them.
They need to stay in regular communication with management and medical staff where available, and give feedback to trainers and coaches about any programme they have been given. If you’re dealing with an injury or pain that’s new, contact your physiotherapist.
We have collaborated with Robbie Lane, Galway Camogie’s strength a conditioning coach, who has put a programme in place for athletes and coaches who are struggling with training restrictions. t is available for download at galwaycityphysiotherapy.com, for a donation where people can afford it.