Mental stress in lockdown and the role of a physiotherapist

Why do physio staff need to be good listeners? asks Rani Sharma who has been treating patients remotely these past few months

Rani Sharma Specialist MSK physiotherapist at the Physis clinic, Edinburgh

A virtual consultation during this pandemic has not only been helpful to patients but also has given hope to some who otherwise would miss out due to unavailability of a face-to-face session at this unprecedented time.  

During consultation, I have felt vulnerable patients – mostly living alone – are at higher risk of mental health problems, which were due to loneliness, medical history or loss of a friend or family member with Covid-19.  

On follow-up sessions, it is seen that the progress in these patients who are dealing with mental stress is remarkably slow. In our regular physiotherapy consultation, sometimes we tend to overlook exploring the mental health aspect of a patient, which they do not voluntarily open up to unless prompted.  

Research suggests that stress can be a major contributing factor in  musculoskeletal pain and sleep deprivation. So, as physiotherapy workers, we need to educate these patients on ways to reduce stress, which is as important as doing physio exercises. In addition, lack of education and awareness in this subject can eventually lead to frustration if the recovery is slow. 

Few of my patients have tried alternative therapies – such as gardening, meditation, music and television to combat stress. As a therapist, I have felt that we can spare a few extra minutes listening to their problems, and thus being a good listener seems to have a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing. 

A combination of exercise, education and proper guidance on dealing with mental stress can help in reducing musculoskeletal pain.  

A random telephone call and querying about their health can bring back the lost smile. 

  • Rani Sharma is a specialist MSK physiotherapist at the Physis clinic, Edinburgh 


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