The ‘wear and tear’ myth

After many years of treating injured tradies, I’ve noticed similarities between the language used when talking about machinery on the jobsite, and the body.

“Something’s out of place,” “Just a bit of wear and tear.”

These are common phrases a tradesman (or woman!) might use to describe their injury to me in the clinic. I’m not sure how this common comparison came about; perhaps through health professionals attempting to simplify matters, or through misrepresentation of the body and injuries in the media. Whatever the origins, two things are clear: firstly, this way of thinking is ingrained within the general population. Secondly, and most importantly, to think of the human body as a machine is not only not doing it justice, it is also completely inaccurate.

While tools and machinery may comprise lifeless parts that wear out, the human body is made up of living tissues with an amazing ability to heal and regenerate. They are also capable of adapting and changing in response to the loads we place on them. This means rather than “wearing out,”, humans are built with the capacity to adapt to withstand the changes in load that the tissues may be exposed to.

Tradies in particular are often exposed to heavy, repetitive or unpredictable loads. So how do we capitalise on the capabilities of the body to prevent injuries in tradies? There are a few important things that need to be understood to provide the conditions necessary for optimal function of the body in a physical industry.

Be “Body Aware”. Understand your own capacity and recognise it takes time for the body to adapt to new loads. Have niggles or injuries properly assessed by a professional, learn how to evaluate each job and develop warm up or recovery strategies for new tasks.

Stay fit. Your body loves to move! Be physically active outside of work every day. Work with a professional to identify areas that you need to keep strong to prevent injury. Perform a variety of different movements and types of activity; find something that you enjoy doing or that can be done with others.

Put the right fuel in the tank. Improve your body’s capacity to heal and adapt by eating a balanced diet, drinking less alcohol and not smoking!

Get Sleep. Insufficient sleep can have a negative effect on the healing and recovery process.

Statistically, injury rates among tradies in Australia are improving, but are still very high compared to other industries. Come on tradies, it’s time to get pro-active and make an effort to understand your most valuable asset- your body!

Article written by Healthfocus Physiotherapist Melissa Allen. To book an appointment with Melissa, contact Healthfocus Physiotherapy Wodonga.