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Treating and Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders while Self-Isolating

by Mark Fletcher(more info)

listed in physiotherapy, originally published in issue 264 - August 2020

The effects of the COVID-19 crisis are being felt across the world. In the UK, the Government has put social distancing measures in place and ordered many businesses to close in order to minimize human contact, slow the spread of the virus and relieve the strain on the NHS. This has forced millions of people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary, with no way of knowing how long the lockdown will last.

But with visits to GP surgeries and hospitals strongly advised against and access to face-to-face physiotherapy services severely restricted, what options are available to anyone who suffers – or is already suffering from – an injury or musculoskeletal disorder (MSD)?

Companies have acted quickly to provide patients with remote access to physiotherapists, enabling them to continue to receive the support they need to manage their conditions and reduce pain levels, without having to leave their home or putting additional pressure on the NHS.


Physio Med telehealth Mar 20


Services such as occupational physiotherapy provider Physio Med’s new Telehealth offering allow anyone suffering an injury or MSD, such as back or neck ache, to talk to a senior physiotherapist for a 30-minute initial assessment. This includes a series of questions and movements to help provide a diagnosis. The patient is then advised on the best way to self-manage the condition through a bespoke exercise programme which can be communicated over the phone or through video exercise files that can be accessed via a computer, smartphone or tablet. Follow up appointments are then arranged as necessary to monitor progress and provide further advice, motivation and self-management techniques.

With medical evidence showing that early physiotherapy intervention on MSDs can prevent acute conditions becoming chronic, the service is also available to frontline staff at some NHS Trusts who are under immense pressure during the coronavirus outbreak. This means those unable to access physiotherapy services won’t be forced to work while struggling with injuries which, if left untreated, could worsen and force them to be absent from work for an extended period, at a time when they are needed more than ever.

With those who have suddenly found themselves stuck at home with some free time on their hands, it is likely that many will take the opportunity to tackle DIY tasks around the house and begin spring cleaning. However, because many of these activities are regularly done in a position that puts muscles, joints and limbs under pressure, Physio Med has produced a guide showing how NOT to do them. This explains the impact they can have and how to do them correctly.


Back pain


Mark Fletcher, Clinical Director at Physio Med, said: “For many people who now find themselves in isolation, catching up with tasks they may have been putting off makes perfect sense, especially if it helps keep them fit. However, carrying out physical activities for the first time in several months – or even longer – can easily damage your body if you attempt to do them incorrectly.

“Prolonged activity in the incorrect position can have a huge impact on your health and mobility, so the guide has been designed to help people maintain the correct posture while carrying out household chores and prevent them from suffering MSDs and injuries as a result.

“As a general rule, always maintain a straight back and bend your knees as much as possible. This will help ensure that self-isolating doesn’t mean you have to suffer with a bad back.”

Washing Windows

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Twisting and over-using one arm can damage your upper and lower back and shoulders, while gripping for extended periods and using repetitive motions can also cause elbow injuries.

Physio Med’s advice – “Avoid using one side of the body more than the other by alternating hands or using a different hand to clean each window. Keep your body straight at all times and wash windows from a face on position. Where possible, use a telescopic window cleaning pole to reach high windows instead of a ladder and always take a break when necessary.”


What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Twisting and leaning forward or over-reaching while dusting can harm your lower back and shoulders.

Physio Med’s advice – “Bend with your knees and move your feet – don’t twist your back. Prepare by doing light back stretching exercises first.”

Carrying Items Up/Downstairs

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Simple lifting and carrying advice is everywhere, but most people still ignore it. Twisting and over-reaching whilst carrying items damages your lower back, upper back and shoulders, while repeatedly lifting and carrying heavy loads can cause repetitive strain injuries to the knees.

Physio Med’s advice – “Hold items close to your body and keep your back straight. Twist from your feet, not your back or shoulders. Never try to carry something you struggle to even lift, get someone to help you instead.”


What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – If you move your whole body while leaning and twisting to vacuum, it can hurt your upper and lower back. Similarly, over-reaching can put a strain on your shoulders and gripping the vacuum for extended periods is bad news for your elbows.

Physio Med’s advice – “Keep your back straight and move your arms, not your spine. Take regular breaks or share the task with someone else. If you’re in the market for a new hoover, make sure it isn’t too heavy for you to move before buying it.”


Watching TV


Watching TV

What you’re doing wrong and how it can affect you – Although watching TV isn’t a chore, many people are likely to find themselves watching more of it than usual over the coming weeks and should be aware that an incorrect sitting position can be bad news for your body. Sitting with your legs crossed can damage your hips and knees, and sitting for too long, or just leaning forward in excitement, can damage your lower back.

Physio Med’s advice – “Stand up, or at least uncross your legs, every 20 minutes. Sit with your back straight and make sure you’re face-on to the screen, not at an angle.”



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About Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher MCSP HCPC Senior Chartered Physiotherapist is the Clinical Director at Physio Med, an occupational physiotherapy provider with clinics in Leeds and Guiseley. Mark has been a Chartered Physiotherapist for 23 years, running his own practice in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, before launching Physio Med. Originally from Stockton-on-Tees, Mark was also head physio for rugby Super League team the Bradford Bulls between 1999 and 2002. Mark oversees the clinical direction of the business but still spends time on clinical practice at Physio Med's HQ and in the original Guiseley clinic. Mark may be contacted on Tel: 0113 229 1300;;

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