The Importance of Wellbeing When Returning to Work: An Osteoarthritis Story

In the realm of rehabilitation, our goals extend beyond simply returning to work. With every referral that lands in our inbox, we take the time to understand the aspirations of our referrers and their customers. For some, the prospect of work may seem distant, and we recognise that improving overall wellbeing is often the crucial first step in this process. 


This holistic approach often sets the stage for transformative journeys, like the one undertaken by Kelly*— a vibrant and active individual who was confronted with the challenges of osteoarthritis. With the unwavering support of our exceptional Exercise Physiologist, Shara, and the collaborative efforts with other service providers, Kelly was able to surpass her own expectations by miles! So we thought we would share her story. 


Meet Kelly


Imagine the daily frustrations of living with chronic pain and stiffness, where even simple tasks become daunting challenges. Kelly found herself in this very situation, facing limitations that meant she had to stop working and hindered her ability to fully partake in life. Activities that were once effortless became overwhelming obstacles as she discovered she couldn’t spend more than 60 minutes on her feet or climb stairs without significant discomfort. Basic household chores like gardening seemed out of reach, leaving her feeling disheartened and uncertain about how to improve her situation.


However, Kelly remained determined to find a solution and regain her health and wellbeing. Kelly was offered surgery but chose to explore conservative treatments, believing they could be the key to reclaiming her life. It was during this time that she connected with Shara, our compassionate and knowledgeable Exercise Physiologist. Together, they embarked on a journey to address the limitations that had held Kelly back for far too long.


The Exercise Physiology Journey


Shara, armed with a deep understanding of Kelly’s challenges and aspirations, designed a personalised program to guide her towards success. They began their journey with two sessions per week, allowing Shara to provide hands-on support while gradually empowering Kelly to become more independent in her exercise routine. Education played a pivotal role as well, with Shara offering Kelly valuable insights, guidance, and reassurance every step of the way.


Hydrotherapy became their starting point, a gentle and nurturing mode of exercise that suited Kelly’s comfort level. Immersed in the water, she experienced a welcome relief from the weight and strain on her joints. As time progressed, Shara introduced land-based activities, focusing on strengthening Kelly’s lower limbs and enhancing her overall fitness. With each passing session, Kelly’s confidence grew, alongside her physical capabilities. Kelly even dared to venture into the vibrant world of Zumba—an activity that had seemed like a distant dream before! Together, Shara and Kelly slowly dissipated the limits that osteoarthritis had imposed. 


Exceeding Expectations 


The stark contrast between where Kelly started and where she ended up was awe-inspiring. What began as a quest for improved wellbeing turned into a full 180 in regard to her function! Kelly’s strength and mobility soared, pain became a distant memory, and she regained her ability to do many of the things she thought she would not be able to do again. 


Just to highlight some of her successes: 

    • Perceived ability to complete day-to-day tasks went from 11/50 – 50/50! 
    • Lower extremity function went from 26% to 100% 
    • Balance on both legs increased 2-fold


As Kelly’s achievements exceeded her initial goals, Shara recognised the potential for even greater success and in discussion with Shara, Kelly became eager to embrace the workforce once again. Shara decided that collaborating with a rehabilitation provider was the best course of action and at the end of the program, they had begun exploring avenues for Kelly’s return to work. 


What a fantastic outcome! Kelly’s journey serves as a powerful reminder of two essential aspects of rehabilitation: the importance of laying the foundations of wellbeing and the significance of collaborating with other providers to achieve the best outcome. 


*Name changed for privacy

Author: Tessa Nielsen 
Clinical Exercise Physiologist and
Content Creator at Specialised Health

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