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The CSP is taking a new approach to the old problem of physio injuries. Graham Clews reports

Physiotherapists and associate members in all specialties across the UK are being sought to take part in a major body-mapping exercise.

The move is part of a CSP campaign to highlight the extent of work-related musculoskeletal disorders and the massive impact these can have on lives and careers.

Safety reps are holding sessions in the workplace this month and next, encouraging members to share their experiences and identify the causes.

The reps, who have had special training, will ask members to indicate their injuries, aches and pains by putting coloured stickers on life-sized outlines of a human body. The stickers are in three different colours, to represent pain incurred at work; pain from hobbies and other activities; and pain from outside activities made worse by work. The process takes only 10 minutes.

Members will be able to share problems, realise they are not alone and discuss why it is they work through pain.

The sessions will also provide solid evidence of workplace injuries that would otherwise go unrecorded. These can then be presented to local employers to encourage more effective risk assessments.

A major CSP study in 2005 found that 44 per cent of physiotherapy staff were not risk-assessed in their current posts, and feedback suggests that this has got worse.

The report concluded that one in every 16 physios was likely to leave the profession early because of their MSD, a problem experienced by 68 per cent of members at some point during their careers.

Only 16 per cent of physios notified their line manager of their MSD, and only 10 per cent of members completed a workplace accident form.

The NHS’s own Boorman review, published last year, also found that MSDs were the most common reason for early ill-health retirement from the NHS.

‘Grin-and-bear-it attitude’

Deborah Cullen, an occupational health physiotherapist at Portsmouth City PCT, and CSP safety rep for the south central (north) region, says she is experiencing an increase in self-referrals from physio staff.

‘The big issue I am seeing is cumulative MSK stress,’ she said. ‘Physios are not always good at recognising that in themselves. We have staff who are working with MSDs, not reporting them, not using all their annual leave, working regularly beyond their contracted hours.’

Hannah Weden, CSP regional health and safety rep for the East Midlands, said: ‘Despite us spending much of our working lives addressing the very MSK problems we are complaining of, there is a real grin-and-bear-it attitude among staff.

‘What came out strongly from the training was that reps felt body-mapping was a useful tool, but also that it must only be the start. It is the action and changes to practice that would really be the most significant part of the campaign.’

CSP members should contact their local safety rep to find out when their body-mapping session will take place. fl

Life story

 

Sally (not her real name) sprained her wrist while doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.

The dummy was on a non-adjustable plinth that was too high for her, and as she performed chest compressions she felt a sharp pain. ‘I wasn’t really able to carry on with the training, but because the trainers were very intimidating I did,’ she says.

‘They were very insistent that people practise over and over again, so they realised “how tiring it is” and “can remember to do it in a stressful situation”. At the time I thought it was just a twinge and would disappear. Unfortunately it didn’t. I ended up having two operations.’

Sally didn’t fill in an incident form because she didn’t initially think it was a serious injury, but since then, she has had difficulty in gaining promotion because her job has had to be adapted, and she has had to change her car and limit her driving. She can’t carry things for long, and cooking, cleaning and other day-to-day tasks have become more difficult.

‘I will have to live with this for the rest of my life, and while facing my third operation, my overwhelming concern is that others avoid getting into the situation I’m in,’ she says.

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