Obesity in healthcare continues to get bigger, Anna Young explains why physiotherapy should be part of weight management
My work in bariatric and weight management teams involved helping patients who have been struggling with living in a bigger body to start moving and to improve function, as well as preparing for weight loss surgery and support with post-op exercise to prevent muscle wasting and to cope with a rapidly changing body size.
Physios will come across patients many times in their professional life who are struggling with rehab or managing a health condition whilst managing a bigger body. Without support or guidance it can be difficult tackling sensitive conversations about weight or asking appropriate questions, as well as struggling with finding suitable functional aids and equipment.
There are so few specialist physios working specifically in this field and many are working in medical teams as the lone physios. Connecting with others is so important for learning and developing as well as feeling supported in this challenging, but incredibly rewarding, role.
Over the years I have spoken at various conferences about my work in weight management and shared presentations on the CSP website.
I have noticed I am being contacted more frequently by physios from all over the UK asking for guidance around training needs and supporting patients. There is definitely a need to support physios managing patients living with large bodies and thinking about the physical/practical implications this has as a physiotherapist.
There is now a drive by Public Health England, and following an All-Party Parliamentary Group enquiry, to support the need for more obesity services. I have seen many new private companies now taking on contracts and they often have exercise instructors to promote physical activity but physios have the skills to support the more complex health needs that are often associated with obesity. Also those hidden issues like continence, intimate relationships, or simply struggling to put on socks are often missed without the more specialist physio getting involved.
I have set up a small physio obesity network – contact me at email@example.com if you would like more information or to join the network.
Anna Young is a physiotherapist managing an NHS adult community therapy team in Hackney, London
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