Self-care is a trending concept at the moment with many different definitions and uses.

You often see social media posts promoting self-care with pictures of day spas, yoga retreats and people exercising on the beach at sunset. All wonderful things, but when you live with a chronic condition, pain and sometimes-crippling exhaustion, life’s not always that glamorous!

So what is self-care?

The World Health Organisation defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker”.(1)

That’s a pretty dry definition, so for the everyday person with a musculoskeletal condition, we describe self-care as the things you consciously and deliberately do to take care of your physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

It includes everything from exercising regularly and staying active, eating a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep, caring for your mental healthmanaging pain and fatigue, seeing your healthcare team regularly, learning about your musculoskeletal condition, and staying connected with family and friends. It also involves good hygiene, avoiding risky behaviours and actions, and using medicines and treatments appropriately.

The International Self-Care Foundation (ISF) has developed seven pillars of self-care. They aim to help people understand the breadth and importance of self-care, and provide information about the steps you can take to care for yourself better.

Let’s explore them.

Pillar 1. Knowledge and health literacy

Knowledge, as the saying goes, is power – so understanding your body, how it works, how it’s affected by your musculoskeletal condition/s, as well as any other health conditions you have – gives you the ability to make informed decisions about your healthcare.

Health literacy refers to how we “understand information about health and health care, and how we apply that information to our lives, use it to make decisions and act on it”.(2)

Together, health literacy and knowledge give you the tools you need to actively manage your healthcare. By understanding your body and health, you can discuss your options with your health professionals, critically evaluate information from various sources, adjust your lifestyle and behaviours, understand risk factors, and the appropriate use of treatments and tests.

In fact, research shows that people who have high levels of knowledge and health literacy have much better health outcomes.

If you want to know more about your health and musculoskeletal condition/s, or you need help to improve your health literacy, there are many people who can help you.

Talk with your doctor and other members of your healthcare team. Contact the MSK Help Line and speak with our nurses. Visit authoritative websites (like ours).

And never be afraid to ask questions.

Pillar 2. Mental wellbeing, self-awareness and agency

Incorporating things you enjoy and that make you feel good into your daily/weekly routine – such as mindfulness, exercise, alone time, relaxation, massage, and staying connected with family and friends – is a simple thing you can do to look after your mental wellbeing and increase your resilience.

Self-awareness involves taking your health knowledge and applying it to your specific circumstances. For example, if you’re having problems sleeping, and you know exercise can help, you can ensure you’re getting enough exercise each day. Or if you’re carrying more weight than you’d like, and this is causing increased knee pain and self-esteem issues, talk with your doctor about safe ways you can lose weight. Or if you have rheumatoid arthritis and a family history of osteoporosis, talk with your doctor about how you can look after your bone health.

Agency is the ability and intention to act on your knowledge and self-awareness.

Pillar 3. Physical activity

OK, so this one’s fairly self-explanatory since we talk about the importance of exercise and being physically active all the time 😊.

Regular exercise helps us manage our musculoskeletal condition/s, pain, sleep, mood, weight, and joint health – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! It keeps us moving, improves our posture and balance, helps us stay connected and helps prevent (or manage) other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Pillar 4. Healthy eating

This one’s also easy to understand, as along with exercise, healthy eating plays a vital role in our overall health and wellbeing.

Being overweight or obese increases the load on joints, causing increased pain and joint damage, especially on weight-bearing joints like hips, knees, ankles and feet. The amount of overall fat you carry can contribute to low but persistent levels of inflammation across your entire body, including the joints affected by your musculoskeletal condition, increasing the inflammation in these already painful, inflamed joints.

Being overweight or obese can also increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, poor sleep and depression.

Being underweight also causes health issues. It can affect your immune system (meaning you’re more at risk of getting sick or an infection), and you may feel more tired than usual. Feeling tired and run down will affect your ability to be active and do the things you want to do.

If you need help to eat more healthfully or manage your weight, talk with your doctor or dietitian.

Pillar 5. Risk avoidance or mitigation

Simply put, this pillar is about taking responsibility for your actions and behaviours. In particular, those that increase your risk of injury, ill-health or death.

To avoid these risks, you can drink alcohol in moderation, drive carefully, wear a seatbelt, get vaccinated, protect yourself from the sun, quit smoking, wear a helmet when riding a bike, and practise safe sex.

Seeing your doctor and healthcare team regularly is also important to stay on top of any changes to your health.

Pillar 6. Good hygiene

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with self-care for people with musculoskeletal conditions living in Australia. After all, most Australians have access to clean water and clean living/working spaces.

However, the last few years have shown how vital good hygiene is for protecting all of us from bugs and germs. It’s even more important if your condition or meds have weakened your immune system.

Practising good hygiene is a simple thing you can do to reduce the risk of getting sick or developing infections. So continue to regularly wash your hands, cough/sneeze into your elbow, stay home when sick, and keep your home/work environment clean. And although they’re not yet mandated in most places, wearing a mask is recommended and a really good idea when you’re indoors and can’t physically distance yourself from others.

All of these things will help maintain good health and avoid catching (or spreading) any nasties.

Pillar 7. Rational and responsible use of products, services, diagnostics and medicines

Another fun one! 😁 Although the title doesn’t roll off the tongue, this is an important pillar.

ISF calls these self-care products and services the ‘tools’ of self‐care, as they support health awareness and healthy practices.

They include medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter), aids and equipment (e.g. TENS machine, heat or cold pack, walking stick), health services (e.g. physiotherapy, massage therapy), wellness services (e.g. exercise classes, weight loss groups), and complementary therapies.

ISF also says that the use of these tools should be ‘rational and responsible’. That means only using safe and effective products and services.

Contact our free national Helpline

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, or accessing services. They’re available Monday to Thursday between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email ( or via Messenger.

More to explore


(1) Self-care interventions for health, World Health Organization.
(2) Health literacy, Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care


In this edition of Connected tISSUES we are shining a spotlight on the complex and often serious musculoskeletal condition, psoriatic arthritis (PsA). PsA is a condition that presents differently in different people. In simple terms, PsA causes pain and inflammation in the joints and is usually associated with the skin condition psoriasis (but it can occur without someone experiencing this…we told you it was complex!) 

Psoriatic arthritis can be challenging to recognise because of the varied ways it can present and because of overlapping symptoms with other conditions. This difficulty can sometimes lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. Our on-demand webinar Psoriatic Arthritis Diagnosis and Management by Dr Adam Rischin is a great resource for anyone seeking information on PsA, its symptoms, tests that can assist with diagnosis and effective treatment options. 

PsA can affect anyone. Our nurse recalls a 30-year-old male contacting the free Musculoskeletal Health Australia B.A.M. Helpline because he was struggling with the effects of his psoriatic arthritis. The impact this condition was having on his life was heartbreaking.  He was living with quite severe plaque psoriasis (plaques appear as raised, inflamed, and scaly patches of dry skin that may be itchy and painful). This young mans mental health, financial security, social, personal and professional life had also been negatively impacted by his condition. It was sad to learn that he had left his job due to the embarrassment he felt, embarrassment that was caused by a symptom of his condition (he was extremely conscious of the silvery flakes of skin he ‘was leaving’ on the chair at work and he didn’t want other people to have to sit on that after him). He was living with chronic pain due to the inflammation in his joints. His quality of life had been severely impacted and he was desperately looking for understanding, help and connection. 

Whilst there are a number of treatment options available to people living with PsA most recently a medication called Apremiast (OTEZLA) was added to the PBS. Apremiast is showing some positive results for plaque psoriasis which is good news as up to 30% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. 

For more information on Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) go to the Musculoskeletal Health Australia website and download the PsA Information Sheet. For those living with PsA, make sure you access our self-care plan to help you understand, manage and live well with your condition, or call our helpline and speak to our nurse (Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm) on 1800 263 265 or email

Other sources of information on PsA:



It’s that time of year again and early indications are we are in for another ‘bumper’ flu season. Let’s also not forget the seemingly ever present and lingering COVID-19. So, it is important everyone has the most up to date information on what they should and should not do to safely get through the 2024 flu season! 

What – The Facts 

Influenza (also called flu) is an infection of the airways that is easily spread. It affects people of all ages and can be very serious for babies, young children, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions.  

Vaccination is a safe and very effective way to protect yourself and those around you from serious illness caused by influenza.  

Who – should be vaccinated against influenza? 

Yearly influenza vaccinations are given to protect against the most common strains of the virus. It is recommended for all people aged 6 months and over. It is important that you talk to your health professional about getting vaccinated. 

When – is the best time to be given? 

You should get your annual influenza vaccine anytime from April onward to be protected for the peak flu season, which is usually June to September. Influenza vaccination can be given at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccination.  

And don’t forget – COVID-19 vaccination 

Yes, COVID-19 is still around (even though we may be tired of hearing about it), and it is important to be up to date with your vaccinations especially as we head into winter. Make sure you talk to your health care professional about your vaccination options. 

(Read more: ATAGI statement on the administration of COVID-19 vaccines in 2024 ( ) 

For those who live with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, the Australian Rheumatology Association has produced an information sheet about COVID-19 vaccination.

Also, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 make sure you talk to your doctor who may prescribe antivirals if you are eligible. Please note research has confirmed that antivirals should be given as early as possible and only to those who are at a high risk of developing severe disease. 

How – do you get your vaccinations 

Speak to your health care professional about getting your flu and Covid-19 vaccinations. Vaccinations are available through your GP, and pharmacies across the country. 

Key take away messages 
  • You should get a flu vaccination each year. 
  • COVID-19 is still around, and you should keep up to date with your vaccinations. 
  • It is safe to have both vaccinations at the same time. 


Please call our free, national Help Line* on 1800 263 265, or email for more information and support about musculoskeletal conditions, musculoskeletal health and living well.

(*Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm, excluding public holidays)





My Health Record

We’ve put together some basic information to help build your knowledge about this important health initiative.

What is it?

My Health Record is the national digital health record system. It is a secure digital place to store your health information and keeps everything together. It’s an online summary of your key health information and aims to provide more efficient care for you and our family. When you have a My Health Record, your health information can be viewed securely online, from anywhere, at any time. This is especially important in an emergency.

You can keep key health information like allergies, immunisations, pathology, imaging reports, prescription and dispensing information, hospital discharge summaries, specialist referrals and emergency contacts all in the one place which is invaluable if you have multiple care providers.

It is private and can only be seen by you, your healthcare providers and anyone else you choose to share it with.

Importantly, it can be used all throughout your life, from birth through adulthood years and into your old age. Meaning you can track your health information over time.

It will also mean you can access and view your own health records as soon as they’ve been uploaded.

Anyone in Australia who has Medicare, or an individual healthcare identifier (IHI) can use My Health Record. You need a MyGov account to access your record.

You can get a My Health Record at any time.

There is also an online learning module to help you learn more about My Health Record.

More to explore


It occurred to me today that I really don’t understand as much about my condition as I should. I see my doctor regularly, I take my meds, exercise and manage my pain as best as I can.

But I actually don’t understand exactly what’s happening to my body at the basic level. How my condition works, progresses, and the nitty gritty of potential causes.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to know the cellular level stuff – though some of you may want to know that – I just think I should know more, so that I can make informed decisions and play a more active role in the management of my health.

So where to start?

There’s information everywhere and it can be overwhelming. It can sometimes be difficult to work out what information is good and helpful, and what information is wrong, misleading and even dangerous.

As a general rule, libraries, your health professionals, peer support groups, reputable websites/social media sites and peak organisations like Musculoskeletal Australia can give you great information to help you learn about, and understand, your condition.

And the information they provide will help in different situations. For example, your doctor can provide evidence-based information about your condition and treatment options, whereas members of a peer support group can give you practical information about the experience of living with a chronic condition.

I also find that asking lots of questions and being sceptical is key. The information you get – from any source – could potentially affect your health, so you should be cautious.

Some questions I ask when looking at new health information:

  • Who wrote/gave me the information? Do they have the proper qualifications?
  • Where does the information come from? Does it have the scientific evidence to support it?
  • Is the information balanced? Does it give me a variety of options, or provide only one?
  • Does the information provide links to scientific evidence? Or does it only use personal anecdotes from satisfied customers or celebrity endorsements?
  • Is the information up-to-date?
  • Is the information regularly reviewed and updated?

Information is power. So use it to take control over your health and your body.

And if you get confused about any information you find, talk with your doctor. You can also contact our National Arthritis and Back Pain+ Help Line on 1800 263 265 for information and support.

“Information can bring you choices and choices bring power – educate yourself about your options and choices. Never remain in the dark of ignorance.” – Joy Page

Originally written and published by Lisa Bywaters in 2018


As COVID-19 restrictions came into force at the end of March, life as a Musculoskeletal Help Line Nurse began to change. Like many who were lucky enough to be able to work from home, I packed up my office, put it in the boot of my car and set-up my new workspace at home.

Work looked a little different now – face to face meetings became Zoom meetings, COVID-19 health news dominated our searches and we began recording videos to keep consumers updated. But most importantly one constant remained – we were still on the end of the phone or email for when a consumer needed some help or advice.

While the usual enquiries kept coming, there were also stories of personal struggles during the lockdown. People shared their feelings of anxiety surrounding social isolation, their vulnerability and how all too often their exercise routine had diminished, and their pain had increased. We talked over ways to try and overcome this – meditation, mindfulness, online exercise, pain management strategies etc – but sometimes it was just enough to have someone to talk things over with, and to feel like someone was really listening.

While the struggles were evident, it was also lovely to hear reports of some positive experiences that emerged. Social isolation forced many of us to slow down, to reflect on how much we try to squeeze into a day/week, and perhaps allowed us to reflect on the simple things in life that make us happy. For some it was spending more quality time with their immediate family, others enjoyed time to potter in the garden, clear out the cupboards, do some DIY or simply relax with a good book. In a hectic world, pressing the pause button seemed to bring a little light relief in one form or another.

As a nurse I am privileged to be able to share in peoples life experiences, including their ups and downs, and as we all get used to the ‘new normal’ I hope that I can continue to provide a friendly ear to make the COVID-19 journey just that little bit easier.


And some feedback from one of our recent callers:

“Thank you so much for your caring, helpful time with me, giving me very important vital information that I truly need in this very big, busy, fast city…I have received your email with excellent advice in all possible ways and hope for a better way of going along this painful journey with chronic conditions…in which I may be able to benefit and try…and not to feel so alone. I truly hope that things will change for the better. Thank you again Anne, have a gentle relaxing evening and keep warm. Can’t wait to see and read all the goodies inside the email you sent me. With best wishes and kind regards, VC”

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email ( or via Messenger.


Have you noticed how many new words, acronyms and phrases have entered our vocabulary since rona arrived?

We thought it was timely to have a quick look at some of the more common ones, so you’re up-to-date in iso.

  • BCV – before corona virus. This is self-explanatory. Those heady days before we’d even heard of COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2.
  • blursday – seriously what day of the week is it today? They really do all blur together in isolation.
  • corona moaner – we love rhyming don’t we? We all have our moans and complaints about iso and this strange situation we’re living through, but the corona moaner is the person who never stops complaining. You know who I’m talking about.
  • coronials – corona + millennials = a new generation, born about 9 months after isolation began. Lots of time at home together, a few quarantinis and whoops, we have a baby boom.
  • covexit – like Brexit – it’s the strategies for getting out of isolation and the economic issues associated with it. Let’s hope it’s smoother and quicker than Brexit!
  • coronacation – working or schooling from home. Though I’m a little perplexed by this one because it hasn’t felt like a holiday or vacation at all. It’s feels a bit like hard work, right??
  • covidiot – again fairly self-explanatory. Just as we love rhyming, we love joining words together to create new ones. A covidiot is someone who ignores physical distancing, ignores all the restrictions and thinks life can continue as usual, as if it was BCV.
  • covid-kilos – refers to the slightly curvier shape some of us have developed after making endless batches of banana bread or trying to make the perfect sourdough loaf or experimenting with quarantini recipes.
  • flattening the curve – this phrase entered our vocab very quickly. Basically it means limiting the spread of COVID-19 to reduce the impact on the health system. Sadly it’s not a quick fix to covid-kilos or pandemic padding.
  • iso – short for isolation. Der.
  • magpieing – this refers to the covidiots who created a toilet paper/hand sanitisier/flour/cake mix shortage for a time by buying up more than they could use in 10 lifetimes.
  • my corona – showing my age here, but this one always makes me laugh. It’s just a take on the 1979 song My Sharona by The Knack.
  • pandemic padding – see covid-kilos.
  • quarantini – a martini/cocktail you consume during quarantine. Going by the recipes and images on socials it now seems to be anything you want it to be. But it’s essentially an alcoholic drink you create using whatever you have on hand. Enjoy!
  • rona – our short, ‘affectionate’ name for coronavirus. Shortening it somehow makes it seem a little less scary.
  • sanny – short for hand sanitiser. Have you noticed how the world (or every public building you enter) is beginning to smell like sanny?
  • social/physical distancing – social distancing is used more often, but we prefer physical distancing. It simply refers to us staying physically distant from others to stop the spread of rona.
  • WFH – working from home, with all the joys of tech issues, fighting for space with the family, home schooling, pets and kids interrupting video chats. Yay.
  • zoombombing – the intrusion of covidiots you don’t know into your Zoom meeting. This can be for entertainment purposes – can you say bored covidiot? Or it could be for malicious reasons. Make sure you use the waiting room feature of Zoom so you can see who’s wanting to enter before they disrupt your meeting.

That’s it – you’re up-to-date. For the moment. It’s inevitable that new words and phrases will appear as we continue on our iso journey towards covexit.

Until then, go and fix yourself a quarantini, sit back and contemplate your coronacation. And as the sweet smell of sanny wafts through your home on this blursday in iso, take heart that we’re flattening the curve and we’ll soon be looking at ways to covexit.

More to explore


“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? So it’d be interesting to check that.” US President Trump, White House press briefing April 23 2020.

OK, so you probably don’t need to be told this but – whatever your political leaning is – please don’t inject, gargle, drink or ingest disinfectant. It’s incredibly dangerous.

Sadly this quote highlights the kind of harmful misinformation circulating widely about COVID-19 and potential treatments or ‘cures’. So it’s more important than ever that we think critically when it comes to the news, be it online, tv, radio, from our family, friends and even the US president.

There are many ways you can do this, but a simple one is the CRAAP test. And no, not that one! The CRAAP test is used by students and scholars and is a simple acronym that helps you ask critical questions about what you’re reading.

CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose.

Let’s look at each of these:

Currency – is the info up-to-date and timely?

It’s important when we’re evaluating info about COVID-19, and for most health related topics, that the information is up-to-date. So ask yourself:

  • When was it published or posted online? With COVID, the pool of information is growing exponentially and changing day by day. That means that a lot of the information we had when the virus first appeared is probably already out of date. So always check the date.
  • Has it been revised or updated? If the information was written some time ago, check that the author is regularly updating the information and look for the date of the revision.
  • Do the links work? Links to external sites that no longer work are a sign that the information has been around for a while and isn’t being reviewed and updated.

Relevance – does the info suit your needs?

Is the information relevant to you and the specific question/s you want answered? Ask yourself the following:

  • Does the information relate to my query or answer my question? For example if you’re looking for information about how COVID-19 may affect you, does the website/article/blog talk about people like you – your age, your specific health conditions, countries with similar health systems to yours or does it talk about a population of people in general?
  • Who has it been written for? An academic audience? Or everyday people like you and me? While many of us do read articles, documents etc written for an academic audience, unless you have the necessary education and knowledge, some of the content may be difficult to understand or may be misinterpreted.

Authority – where does the information come from?

When you’re reading information about important things like your health, you really do want it to come from an authoritative author/s. Depending on the context of what you’re reading, this expertise may be scientific or medical, or it may be the lived experience of someone with a musculoskeletal condition. So ask yourself:

  • Who’s the author? Are they known for their authority or credibility in this area? Are they qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there the possibility that a publisher or sponsor creates a conflict of interest or a level of bias? Or are they completely removed from the content?
  • Is there contact information, such as an email address so you can contact the author to ask questions or ask for the sources or basis for any claims they make?

Accuracy – how reliable, factual and truthful is the content?

This is a big one. In this world of fake news we really need to be asking ourselves if the information we’re reading and sharing is actually true. Questions to ask yourself:

  • Where does the information come from? Is it based on scientific studies or personal experience? Both are fine – depending on the context. For example if you’re looking for the latest information on treatments for COVID, you want the latest scientific articles, not the conjecture of a person with no medical or scientific background commenting on Facebook. However personal experience is great if you’re looking for helpful tips for coping with isolation from people just like you.
  • Is the information supported by evidence? And is this evidence credible? Has it been checked by experts in this area and published in a peer-reviewed journal?
  • Has the information been reviewed? In other words has the information been checked by someone else – or several other people, including experts – to ensure it’s accurate?
  • Can you find and verify this information in other places, such as reputable journals, websites or news outlets? Or is it only in one place.
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased? If it’s scientific, medical or health information, the language should be calm and the information presented in a balanced manner.
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors? This indicates that the work may have been rushed and has not been reviewed by anyone else.

Purpose – why was it created?

Why has the information been created and shared? Is it to inform you, teach you, sell you a product or service, entertain or persuade you? And is this clear? Ask yourself:

  • Is the purpose clear? Remember we can’t always take things at face value. For example an article about a treatment for joint pain may appear to be educating you about joint pain and how to best treat it. But the purpose of the information is to sell a product. Look for underlying interests.
  • Do the authors make their intentions or purposes clear? If they want you to buy their product they should be open about that. Or if they’re affiliated with an organisation that has specific views about treatment options, they should also be clear about that.
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda? And how does this affect the information??
  • Is the information objective and impartial? Again this is important when it comes to health and scientific info, but if the information is clearly a personal blog, then having subjective, personal info may be ok for your purposes.
  • Is the information biased? Are there personal, political, ideological, religious, cultural, commercial or institutional biases?

Come on, seriously?

I know, I know. It seems like a lot of work. But your health is important – so take a little extra time when you’re reading information that may affect your health.

And you don’t have to ask all of these questions for everything you read. Just think ‘CRAAP’ when reading and remember Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose, and you’ll get in the habit of asking these questions more quickly than you know.

By thinking critically about the health information you’re exposed to, you’ll be more informed and able to make decisions based on fact, not fake news.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email ( or via Messenger.

More to explore

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