January 21, 2022

Staff Physio Clinic: taking your pain away

If working behind the desk, standing long hours or lifting heavy items is causing that annoying back, shoulder or similar pain, our own Staff Physio Clinic is here to help.

The clinic, which opened in May 2021 at Northern Hospital Epping, has successfully treated over 150 of our colleagues so far, and plans to treat even more, with the working hours soon to be extended.

“From 7 February 2022, we are expanding to five days a week, with first appointments available from 8.30 am, and last appointments usually around 3.30 pm. If staff have a general musculoskeletal complaint, and they want to refer themselves, all they need to do is visit the Staff Physiotherapy Intranet page and follow the instructions there,” Tom Cooper, Physiotherapist explained.

Tom, who leads the clinic, is proud of its achievements so far, and the help it provides to both clinical and non-clinical staff. He is treating some of the most common conditions like back pain and nerve pain in the shoulder, especially with staff who are doing a lot of computer work, relevant now with the rise of Telehealth. Tom also treats ‘tennis elbows’ – which can also occur due to a lot of repetitive moments behind the computer or carrying heavier objects.

“We are seeing a variety of staff. Some self-refer to the clinic, others are a combination of work injuries that have been referred via the Injury Management team. I would say most of the referrals are staff self-referrals for problems that occur outside of work,” he explains.

Tom and the team have presented their findings and outcomes of the clinic to the Executive and found that the clinic has been quite successful in terms of returning people back to work and stopping people from developing more serious injuries.

“Over 90 per cent of staff reported a high level of satisfaction with the service and would recommend to others. The majority of staff felt their condition improved with treatment in the clinic. No one reported that their condition got worse from treatment,” he added.

“If you are feeling sore, you shouldn’t delay coming to see me. Refer early because it’s easier to fix a small problem than it is to fix a bigger problem. The clinic usually provides up to six sessions, and, in most situations, we can deal with the problem within those sessions,” Tom said.

Here is some of the feedback and cases Tom has seen so far:

David was a patient who saw me for a few months in 2021. He had suffered with shoulder pain for nearly a year and limited his ability to exercise and keep fit. He had seen other physios who got his shoulder “about 80 per cent better” but David would keep reinjuring it. David was one of the Staff Physio Clinic’s first ever patients. David was provided with a targeted strengthening program specifically designed for his shoulder’s issue and given education around how to understand his pain symptoms better. Over a few months, we got David’s shoulder pain free and he got back to his usual weights routine for his general fitness. More importantly, David learnt how pain works in the body and how we can work with our body’s protective pain system to promote recovery.

Khadra is a nurse who hurt her back and leg and saw me for treatment last year. This is her email to me after we finished her treatment:

I would like to thank you for the care and dedication you utilised in caring for my injury (ankle and lower back) at the Staff Physio Clinic at Northern Hospital Epping. I was in intense pain, unable to weight bear on my ankle and taking opioids to cope with the pain from my lower back. Although I sustained my back injury at the gym class, my ankle injury was a sustained and untreated injury from working as a nurse for the past 10 years.

Initially, I was unsure where to seek correct treatment for this pain, and continued to solider on thinking it’s normal. When I heard there was a Staff Physio Clinic, I was surprised I never heard of it. But I am definitely very glad I came to see you. Without the treatment I received, I was seriously  considering pivoting my career from nursing. I was anxious, depressed from pain and stressed about calling in sick to work.

I really love my job, so I am grateful for the treatment, and hope you continue this vital clinic for future staff at Northern Health. 

For more information about the clinic, please visit the Intranet page or email staffphysio@nh.org.au.