Tradie Health Month! Are you at risk of injury?

August is Tradie Health Month and we wanted to thank all the wonderful tradies for doing what they do! With that said, the work involved on a day to day basis for tradies can often be demanding on your body. 

There is an ever increasing number of injuries that occur when tradies are working. Did you know that 1 in 5 workplace injuries involve those working on the tools? What you may not know is that the predominant amount of these injuries are preventable – Physio Alistair has all the details!

How to tell if your body may be at risk of injury

Before a painful injury occurs there are often clues that the body is being exposed to strain. You may feel tightness or soreness in your muscles, stiffness through your back, or perhaps there will be days where a body part aches, and then the next day it feels totally fine. These are all signs that your body is under too much strain and there is a limitation causing the body not to move as well as it should.

Strategies to prevent injury

    1. See a physio – A physiotherapist will assess your movements, muscles and joints to see where your body is limited. At Barefoot we will treat the cause of your movement limitations and teach you strategies to maintain good movement. Once your body is able to move better you are less likely to load up other body structures which may be compensating for poor movement in another area of your body. The result is better movement, less pain and stiffness, and more knowledge on how you can best look after yourself.
    2. Develop a technique to keep your back in it’s optimal position while performing heavy physical tasks. If you’ve ever experienced an episode of back pain you’ll know how debilitating it can be. Any movement at all feels uncomfortable and you can’t do the physical activities required for everyday life. To prevent injury to the back it is helpful to learn what in fact neutral spine is and how it feels to move maintaining neutral. We call this this the two-hand check and have adapted it from the book Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. Here’s how to do it:
    1. Place one hand at the bottom of your sternum with your palm facing down and your other hand at your pubic bone palm up. This should create two parallel horizontal planes – the top hand represents the bottom of the ribcage while the bottom hand represents the pelvis.
    2. Lean back and forward and notice how your hands move apart when you’re overextended and together when you’re rounded forward. These are indications that your spine isn’t in neutral. While the spine LOVES to move (and we love it to do so!) when a task is heavy it is best to maintain neutral spine as this places the least amount of strain on it.
    3. Have a go with your mates seeing if you can do a squat while maintaining neutral spine!

( See from left to right – Neutral, Extended, Bent)








3. Get your work mates involved to call you out when you’re in a poor position! See your buddy hunched over in some funky position when he’s lifting something? – let him know about it! It’s easy to fall back into old habits and ways of moving and we all need reminders to stay in a position that’s going to prevent injury. Having others to keep you accountable in maintaining a good position will help you build this habit and prevent injury long term.

Want to learn more, or pop in to see one of the Barefoot Team? Click here. To get involved visit the Tradies health Facebook page or the Tradies health website.

Accumulative Strain explained

You’re bending down, or doing a movement you have done hundreds of times and then all of a sudden you’re in a world of pain. Accumulative strain can present in multiple ways, and significantly affect how we function and move on a day to day basis.

Have you turned slightly the wrong way and had your back go?

Have you had an injury seemingly come out of nowhere?

These are just a few examples of how accumulative strain presents in our body.


So what is Accumulative Strain?

It is a build-up of load from various sources, such as:

  • Postural load
  • Sports technique
  • Previous Injury
  • Poor footwear
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stressful/Emotional load on our brain (anxiety, worry, depression)
  • General Health issues (immune system, endocrine/hormonal systems, infections, illness)

And leads to:

  • Tight muscles
  • Stiff joints
  • Irritated nerves

One thing on its own may not be enough to cause injury or symptoms, but in combination, strain can add up so that a small change in one aspect of your life can lead to a seemingly disproportionate amount of pain/ injury/ dysfunction. If previous injuries/stressors were never completely resolved we bring our tipping point closer to the pain threshold.

In the graph below you can see this depicted. Ideally everyone should be functioning in the optimal zone. This is when muscles and joints feel relaxed and mobile, movement ranges are 75% + and other factors such as nutrition, sleep and stress are being addressed.

What can I do to limit strain?

To limit strain in your body you want to improve all aspects that contribute to it. For example:

  • Improve your posture at work, on the couch at home, driving in your car, or standing at a bar having a drink.
  • Set your workstation up best for YOU!
  • Ensure you are as fit and strong as you can be for the activities you do.
  • Be smart about your footwear.
  • Getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential for brain development and cell recovery.
  • Lead a Balanced Lifestyle. Try to take time out to do the things you enjoy often. Working too much or feeling stressed can have negative effects on your body & your health.
  • See a Barefoot Physiotherapist. To work out if strain is building up in your body that would eventually become an issue, we can do a thorough assessment of your nerves, muscles, joints and postures. You do not need to have symptoms to have an assessment. It is a positive step towards injury prevention.

At Barefoot our goal is to get you back to doing what you love. Whether you are an elite athlete, an office worker, a parent or even a student, it’s so important to listen to your body. At Barefoot Physiotherapy we want to help you continue to live the life you choose, pain free. Want to find out more? Click here.

So what exactly is Sports Physiotherapy?

Sports Physiotherapy explained

More often than not it can be confusing deciding what physio you should see, and how will this change your Physio experience. To answer your questions about Sports Physio we sat down with Barefoot Physio and Olympian Caitlin Sargent!

Many people ask me why we differentiate between the terms ‘physiotherapy’ and ‘sports physiotherapy’.  And fair enough, as the term sports physio isn’t widely understood – in fact, physio in general isn’t widely understood. But there’s a difference, which to us and our clients is vital.

Most people think of physio as a massage, followed by a bunch of home exercises for rehabilitation. So on that basis, sports physio would simply be the same but for people who play sport, right? Not at Barefoot Physiotherapy, and I’ll explain why. Let’s say you’ve presented to your GP with one of the usual suspects like neck, shoulder, back or knee injury. An attentive GP will likely spend a few minutes with you looking at your range of motion and asking about the circumstances of the pain you’re experiencing, before giving you a referral for some physiotherapy. 

Now this is where your journey can make a decisive turn. If you’ve been sent to a regular physiotherapist for rehabilitation, you’ll probably notice the treatment in your session will go straight to the site of the pain. It seems very cause and effect – you have a knee injury, so let’s get to work on that joint.

But this approach misses the key fact that often the site of pain is not in the same place as the cause. Still experiencing pain after a few visits? It’s a safe bet you’ve been treating the symptom and not the cause. At Barefoot we look at the root cause of the pain and treat it, helping to teach you to treat the problem area yourself and help to prevent further injuries in the future.

One of the big differences between physio and a sports physio is a specific understanding of what’s required from your body to perform at such a high level. To get you performing at optimal level, it’s important to help you understand your whole body as a working system. This means looking at your pain and treatment at a holistic level, teaching you to understand your body in a “bigger picture” sense.

Sometimes through treatment it can be determined that your injury may require further investigation from another health professional. We might even determine at an early stage that your shoulder injury, for example, needs investigation from another health professional before we can begin treatment. Or we might pick up in our early assessment that nerve irritation is causing muscle weakness and affecting your technique, which undetected would make a strength training program a very ineffective treatment.

Through looking at the whole picture our physios are able to identify if things like sleep position or posture at work are causing accumulative strain. Identifying this can help to solve your pain – not just fix it temporarily!

Who Should See a Sports Physio?

First of all, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to see a sports physio. In fact, most of our clients don’t fit that description at all (though we do treat some of the best in the business!).

It could be anyone! Our clients range from people who play sport socially, work out alone, weekend warriors and even professionals who need their body to function well as part of their physically active day job. We understand that movement and living an active lifestyle is just as important as those who are professional athletes. Having a body that is able to move and help you continue to do what you love is so important!

Naturally, most of our clients do love sport and achieve amazing results through the way we treat their sport injury or help them to improve performance. Non-professional athletes can often think they don’t need professional advice, but small gains at this level (especially when everyone else is thinking the same thing) can lead to huge performance benefits.

If you would love to get back to doing what you love, or don’t feel like you are performing at your optimal level pop in to visit the Barefoot Team! Click here to read more or book an appointment.

David’s lifelong learning

Barefooter David has seen and done some incredible things throughout his life. Sal recently sat down with David to hear his incredible stories and how David continues to live his Barefoot Lifestyle.

David we understand you’re an avid believer and advocate for lifelong learning and you have 3 (almost 4) degrees. Can you tell me first of all what studies you have done over the years?

Well I started up doing my biology degree in the UK, in the late 1960s. And then came to Australia to do a PhD in 1968. I didn’t complete my PhD as it was on the effect of light on plants… and that meant spending 8 hours a day in the dark! I did learn a lot and earned my Masters for the work I completed.

After this I did something totally different, I was an educational TV producer for a while at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Then I went back to England to see my parents for the first time since I’d left seven years previously. Funnily enough towards the end of that trip I was wondering to myself “well how am I going to get back to Australia?” Because I didn’t want to stay in the UK —  there’s too much rain. I saw an ad in the paper for a scholarship at Griffith University in Brisbane at the new School of Australian Environmental Studies so I came back and I did my PhD… not in the dark, and also not in biology!

Over the years my main career has been in the environmental aspects of energy policy which took me all over the world. That was definitely the area I worked in the longest – for 42 years, so far. But I’ve always been interested in learning about other things.

And most recently at the age of 68 I started an external course through Charles Darwin University on indigenous culture. I have found it to be really interesting and at this stage I’ll probably complete it over the next year.

I’m also involved in the Mt Gravatt Men’s Shed and what attracted me to joining was the opportunity to learn more things.

Is there anything you’re struggling with for your current studies?

Well, while I’m studying for a Graduate Diploma, it’s actually a series of undergraduate courses, and undergraduate courses have short word limits. And because I spent 40 years writing long technical reports I’m finding it difficult to stick within the 1,000 word limit. Something I have noticed over the years is that writing about things is a great way of learning about a topic, you really need to know what you’re talking about to write about it.

You said about the Men’s Shed that people come there to learn and that’s probably what interested you initially. Can you tell me about more about the Shed and what your role is there?

Well yes I went to the Men’s Shed because I wanted to learn about how to use big machines like drop saws, bench saws, large routers, drill presses and things like that. The Shed has a very well-equipped woodworking and metalworking workshop and great teachers.

So I started going along and going to the general meetings. At the second general meeting I went to they said, “We’re looking for an assistant secretary.”  And I thought “Oh, you know, I could do that” so I stuck my hand up and for the last 18 months I’ve been the assistant secretary of the Men’s Shed working very closely with the secretary.

Did you know anybody at the Shed before you went?

I knew nobody.  Now I’m meeting all sorts of different types of people who I would normally never meet. There are lots of very practical people and there are guys there who have been Manual Arts teachers for 40 years and they are still teaching Manual Arts at the Shed. I guess the age range of their students has increased now!  What we’re doing at the moment is revising the constitution of the Men’s Shed to make sure we focus on promoting men’s health because the Shed is a registered health promotion charity. The way we promote men’s health is by providing opportunities for men to do things together.  In this way we can ameliorate so many diseases that are avoidable and originate from isolation. Many men once they retire or cease employment are often very isolated therefore what we do is provide a place where men can come and do things together.

And there’s a very large variety of things to do, I mean there’s something like 25 different activities that are available in the Shed, and they’re not all just workshop activities.  There’s social activities and all sorts of different things.

The next question I have for you is about travelling around the world.  With the consulting roles you have worked in you did quite a lot of travel even up until recently.

Can you tell us about places in the world that stood out to you for some reason.

One that stands out was Lapland in the far north of Finland which I remember vividly because Larry, the guy I was working with, and I were riding around on Skidoos. He was from the US and somehow he was a great driver, while I wasn’t. I just kept falling off. Because Larry was on the back when I was driving, he fell off too, but he was very gracious about it.

Probably the most amazing thing about that place was the airport – it was a tiny shed so far from anywhere in the world. When we all turned up to leave, there were about 20 people in our group heading to different places all around the world – Sydney, a small town in Italy, a little rural town in the US etc. The airport didn’t have printed luggage labels for all these places and the two women just handled it – writing out the luggage labels by hand. There were 3 or 4 changes of planes for each of us and I remember thinking “Is that suitcase really going to make it to Sydney?”. Well it did, no problem. 

That was at a meeting of a group attached to the International Energy Agency who I worked with for 15 years. That group had meetings every six months, mostly in Europe but also in some Southeast Asian countries and in the US and occasionally in Australia,  so we went to all sorts of different places.

We also had a meeting of this group on a ship that was travelling along the West Coast of Norway, delivering supplies to all these little towns at the ends of fjords. We started off in Trondheim and we ended up in Tromsø, which is right inside the Arctic circle. Having a meeting on a ship is actually very useful… you can’t get off so everyone has to stay in the meeting.

There was one guy coming from the UK who couldn’t make the first day of the meeting so he had to join the ship at this little tiny town on a fjord  somewhere in Norway.  When he flew in there was hardly anyone there but eventually he found some guy who would drive him to the landing stage. Essentially he said “I need to get on a ship that will be arriving at the wharf in an hour”.  “No worries, I’ll drive you”.

And the other place of course is China. I spent six years travelling to China three or four times a year for a couple of weeks at a time and that was fascinating.  I mean in some ways it was different in other ways it was very similar to the West because all the big cities in China now are very much like western cities.

And that’s true in all the big cities in China now. We did manage to do a little bit of travelling outside the big cities and that was really interesting because it was different. We were able to see farmers driving around on bicycle carts carrying their produce and all that sort of stuff.  I would have liked to have done a lot more travelling around the country but most of the work that we were doing was in the big cities. 

You’re turning 70 next week, is there any advice you would give to your 20 year old self?

I think what I’d say is don’t be afraid of people. Over the years, if I could write something rather than talking to somebody that’s what I’ve always tended to do. I feel safer expressing what I think in writing than I do verbally and especially relating to people in groups. So I’ve leaned in more lately, and that’s one of the things that I’m learning at the Shed, relating to people and I’m starting to like it.

I’d also say that over the last 50 years I have packed a lot in and have always avoided boredom. I always have projects on the go and tend to do something different as often as I possibly can. So I’d say to 20 year old David “There’s a lot of change and interesting things coming your way! You’ll never be bored!”

We absolutely love hearing from about the amazing things our Barefooters get up to. If you would like to read our previous Barefooter stories click here.

Are you sitting at a desk? Read this!

Work Station Set Up

Our bodies are made to move, and when they aren’t moving often you can start to experience stiffness and soreness. We’ve all experienced the pain of standing at a concert for too long, or sitting still while watching a 3 1/2 hour movie. When our brain is focusing on other things, it doesn’t give us the signal that our joints, muscles and nerves need to move.

Being in one position for long periods can cause some muscle groups to shorten and others to lengthen over time. This can be the reason that muscles eventually become tight or weak, joints can become stiff and then nerves aren’t able to glide through the body as they normally do. This will start to accumulate strain in your body.

Don’t fear! We have a few key actions that you can do during and after your work day to prevent strain building up in your body.

  1. Take regular breaks from your working position.
    A lot of our clients tell us that they get up often to go to the photocopier, get a glass of water or talk to someone. This may be the case and the question is more about consistency. Are you moving that often every hour, or only some of the day? Ideally, changing your position every 20mins is recommended. A change in position doesn’t have to mean standing up and walking around each time, it may just be doing a gentle spine twist in your chair, turning your neck from side to side, rolling your shoulders or tilting your pelvis back and forth a few times.
  1. Choose a reminder system to correct your posture.

We love hearing how our clients remind themselves to correct their posture, here are a few suggestions:

  • Every time you hear the phone ring
  • Before you open an email
  • When you walk through a doorway
  • Setting the background picture as a reminder on your computer or smart phone
  • Using an app that pops up on the screen of your computer or phone

How to prevent strain building up in your body outside of work:

  1. Do regular exercise. 
    The more that your body can handle long walks, lifting weights, practising Yoga or gardening, the easier staying in one position at work will seem. Being strong and flexible will not only help you hold a better position at work, it will also help to slow the build-up of strain in your body and prevent injury. Not to mention the added work-life balance benefits! 
  1. Get a thorough assessment from your Physiotherapist.
    At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we can assess your nerves, joints, muscles and movements to measure the amount of strain you have built up in your body. You do not need to have any symptoms or conditions to have this assessment; think about it like going to the dentist for a check up to prevent something happening! If there is any strain building up in your body, we can help teach you how to reduce the strain and prevent it coming back again.

Basic Principles 

  • Keep work as close as possible to your body (papers, keyboard etc)
  • Keep items that are used regularly between hip and shoulder height
  • Only short periods of time should be spent doing repetitive tasks and holding static postures (aim for having a break every 20-30mins)
  • Keep heavy reference materials in arm’s reach or so that you need to stand to access them
  • Maintain upright posture and avoid twisting/slouching


  • Maintain a neutral spine. This means maintaining your 4 natural curves. This position minimises stress on your spine and helps prevent injury. This applies to sitting, standing and lifting postures.
  • Ensure your lower back is supported by the chair or a cushion/towel. Your back muscles should be soft
  • Keep your head upright and in line with your shoulders.
  • Shoulders should be relaxed back and down –  the muscles on top of your shoulders should be soft
  • Don’t hold the phone between your ear and shoulder – a headset is ideal


Adjust the height of your chair to match the following:

  • Elbows should be at desk height or slightly above
  • Thighs are parallel to the floor & feet flat on the floor – you may need a footrest to achieve this
  • Have a 2-3 finger width between back of knee and front of seat
  • If you have a very deep seat you may need a cushion behind your back to allow for optimal posture & back support
  • Adjust the height of backrest so it fits into curve of lower back
  • Tilt backrest backwards slightly to minimise strain through the low back


  • Desk surface should be just below elbow height
  • Footrest should not interfere with movement of the chair
  • There should be a gap between your desk and your thigh
  • Items under the desk shouldn’t interfere with your feet
  • Place frequently used items in top drawer
  • Place phone so you can reach the handset and buttons without needing to move your trunk


  • Directly in front
  • Top of screen level with or slightly lower than eyes when sitting upright
  • Arm’s length away


  • Flat on desk
  • 5-10cm from front edge of desk
  • Don’t rest wrists on desk or keyboard while keying


  • Directly beside keyboard
  • Alternate sides
  • Avoid holding mouse while not using it  (avoid holding a prolonged position)
  • Avoid controlling the mouse with only  side-to-side wrist movement – keep your wrist  in line with your forearm & move the forearm  & wrist as one

Document Holders

  • Place document holder next to the monitor and at the same height and distance as the monitor
  • Use an angled surface to decrease prolonged periods of neck bending e.g. when reading for prolonged periods of time

Laptop Computers 

If using a laptop for extended periods of time, consider:

  • Docking station to ensure correct screen height and distance (as above)
  • Use of external mouse and keyboard to avoid excessive reaching

We understand that sitting at a desk can be a part of every day life, that’s why it’s so important to understand how to take care of your body while at work, or at home!

If you would like any more information, or would like to book in with one of our physios click here.