Tradies’ health and wellbeing in focus
Helping tradespeople understand just how much physiotherapy can assist them recover from injury and how physiotherapists can help educate them about work-related injury avoidance techniques are the foci of this month’s Tradies National Health Month.
APA Occupational Health group chair David Hall, APAM, says turning a spotlight on tradies’ work practices is a great opportunity for physiotherapists to show how they can advise tradespeople on how to reduce the likelihood of injury, undertake preventive health management and, in the case of injury, provide them with treatment and exercises to assist in a speedy recovery.
‘Many tradies assume a few aches and pains are part and parcel of their demanding physical work, but seeking regular preventive health checks can reduce common musculoskeletal conditions, including muscle/tendon injuries and back pain,’ David says.
‘Tradies, especially self-employed tradies, are famous among physios for limping in once they almost literally can’t work anymore and saying “Hey, can you fix me up?”. The main message for tradies is to be more on the front foot than that, and to come and see a physio either to prevent injury or at the very least when issues are just a niggle rather than a major event.’
Tradies are an important patient cohort that is over-represented in the number of serious injuries that occur in the workplace, David says. While they make up less than one-third of the workforce, almost three in every five serious workplace injuries involve a tradesperson, figures from Safe Work Australia 2014–15 show. David says other complaints commonly presenting to treating physiotherapists include low back pain and neck and shoulder pain. Repetitive bending and heavy lifting in cases where a wheelbarrow or the like should be used are often the culprit of many of the injuries, David says. As such, physiotherapists are in the perfect position to be able to educate this patient cohort about the breadth of services physiotherapy can offer.
‘There is a low awareness about the benefits of physiotherapy among tradies— it’s not just for rehab after an injury, but also for preventive health management to keep them in top shape all the time,’ David says. ‘That’s why we want tradies to make their health the most valuable part of their toolkit. Their longevity and ability to work productively for long periods of time is completely reliant on their physical and mental health and wellbeing, so that should be foremost in everything that they do.’
Throughout August, Tradies National Health Month campaign presents the perfect opportunity to start the conversation with tradespeople in local communities about the importance of injury prevention, injury management and preventative health management. The APA consumer campaign Choose Physio has resources readily available to offer tradies a host of information about common injuries as well as return-to-exercise information following an injury and also how to locate a physiotherapist near them.
‘I think tradies don’t always understand how much a physio can assist them so it’s important to spread the word and engage them in thinking about injury prevention and management,’ David says. ‘We have found in the research that most of them take really good care of their tools but de-emphasise the health and wellbeing of their body. We want physios to spread the word about the benefits of physiotherapy and encourage all Aussie tradies to Choose Physio.’
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