When chronic pain affects the people who protect our community

Society says 40 is the new 30. But your body disagrees. It just doesn’t perform as well as it used to. Our 40s is a decade that’s synonymous with back pain, a greater risk of arthritis, and other painful conditions such as tendonitis.

Although, when your job relies on physical strength, chronic pain can affect everything you do. Athletes aside, emergency workers demand great physical commitments. The job requires speed, strength, and stature. Athletes are side-lined for injuries. This isn’t always the case for emergency workers.

“You’re alright, mate”

Unless an injury is severe, first responders don’t take time off work for rest and rehabilitation. Add to this the “I’m okay, I’m strong” mentality, responders typically work through a myriad of painful conditions.

There’s also the dynamic role of the emergency worker. Officers run, tackle, jump, hold up and hold down people. Emergency staff climb ladders, hold heavy hoses, carry dead weights, swim into rips, and lift people. More often than not, without warning, where stretching is necessary.

Chronic pain is Australia’s third most costly health condition

While unbearable, chronic pain is invisible. You might feel misunderstood and stigmatised, especially by your first responder family. It’s a serious issue that can lead to loss of function, decreased enjoyment in day-to-day activities, and spark relationship issues.

We now know that one in five adults with chronic pain also suffer depression and mood disorders. For emergency workers whose jobs rely on physical capabilities, these figures are particularly important. Chronic pain is also linked to generalised anxiety, PTSD, and substance misuse.

For first responders who have been injured on the job, their confidence and identity might be compromised. With their ideologies wrapped in their ability to work, being out of uniform only feeds this desire to dull the pain. This is where mental health support, alongside the physical recovery journey, is extremely beneficial.

Common forms of pain

If you’re in your 40s, the most common types of pain include arthritis, back issues, musculoskeletal and neuropathic problems, and visceral discomfort. Pain can also be associated to recent health issues, particularly if there was surgery involved.

While multidisciplinary pain management is usually required, taking charge of pain through self-care is just as important. This includes accepting the pain and searching for ways to minimise it. Then, changing the way you think about it, by retraining your brain, and re-establishing routines that allow you to heal.

Learning how to communicate your needs to colleagues and your department will also fast-track your journey.

Tackle chronic pain, one service at a time

Take the steps to reduce your risk for health problems led on by wear, tear, and overuse.

Your body is the most important armor you have. Keep it safe.

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We understand the demands of front line work more than any other insurer. After all, we've been looking after the health and wellbeing of the police community for more than 85 years. Whether you're already a member or interested in becoming one, call us to find out how to get the most out of our cover and benefits. We're here to help. 

Please note: some articles on this website are compiled from material obtained externally. Although we make every effort to ensure information is correct at the time of publication, we accept no responsibility for its accuracy. Health-related articles are intended for general information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor. The views expressed in articles are not necessarily those of Emergency Services Health.