Veterans: How Physiotherapy Changed My Life
Every week, thousands of Australian veterans work together with their trusted physiotherapists on their journey to better health. For some, this looks like getting the care they need to recover from pain or injury so they can get back to normal, comfortable movement. For others, it’s getting help to manage conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), arthritis - even helping prepare for or recover from surgery.
While physiotherapy offers so many benefits that lead to a genuinely improved quality of a person's life, many veterans are still not accessing the care they need. The reasons for this range from not knowing their DVA entitlements or the clinically proven value of physiotherapy, to simply having accepted pain, discomfort and recurring injury as a normal part of their life after service.
Here’s how, after much hesitation, one veteran's experience with physiotherapy is now helping him lead an active and independent life he enjoys - and how you may be able to access fully-funded physiotherapy care with DVA too.
Graham is a 76-year-old Australian veteran and Gold Card holder. In the years following his time in military service, Graham had put up with various muscle and joint pains including neck pain, back pain, chronic pain and knee arthritis. As a result, Graham found it difficult to move around his home at times, which at first had him cancelling plans, but over the years with worsening and more frequent episodes of pain, led to him generally participating in fewer social activities and engagements.
While Graham attended his routine doctor's appointments and did raise the pains to some extent when prompted, he did not convey the true impact they were having on his mobility and life, which worsened every year. He did not seek any rehabilitative treatment, as he had accepted that some level of pain on an almost daily basis was ‘normal’ given all that he had been through, and that he just had better days and worse days. Graham felt that his time in the service was one of great strength, perseverance and overcoming challenging situations - and that comparatively, coping with pain now should be simple, and that he shouldn’t need help.
Graham spent years putting up with the pain himself - saying that some days it really wasn’t that bad, despite feeling severe discomfort on other days, particularly in colder winter months where his knee would give him the most grief. It wasn’t until Graham joined an online community of Australian veterans recommended by a friend to connect and become more familiar with all of his DVA benefits that he saw how many of his peers were actively seeking help for their pain, anytime it arose. They weren’t bearing it alone. They weren’t resigned to seeing out their days just coping with the pain or problems. To them, pain wasn’t normal - it was just a temporary and frustrating inconvenience that would linger until they got help - and often from their physiotherapist.
While Graham initially hesitated, falling back on being unfamiliar with a complicated process to actually getting funded physio care, he quickly saw that there were ways to simplify the process - like being connected to trusted health professionals that understood veterans and the challenges they faced. Better yet, both the care he needed and being connected to this care would be fully funded with his Gold Card.
Physiotherapists are board-registered health professionals with one primary goal: helping their patients move well, comfortably, with as little pain as possible, so they can do the things they love, and lead a life they enjoy. Usually, this means helping them recover from pain or injury, regardless of how long it has been present or its severity. Focusing on a person’s long-term health and well-being, it also means helping them prevent the pain and injury from recurring in the future, and helping prevent new injuries in general.
Aside from muscle and joint pain, physios also work extensively with veterans with neurological disorders and their effects on the body, including from stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy spinal cord injuries and more. Physios also work with those suffering from PTSD, chronic health conditions like diabetes, COPD, and heart disease - to name a few.
Graham wasn’t sure what to expect from his first physiotherapy appointment. From what he’d heard in the past, he expected that he’d be given a series of stretches and exercises that he may not be able to keep up with or complete. Graham’s physiotherapist was very attentive, listening to the pain he had been experiencing and his concerns. He performed a comprehensive assessment, explained every finding and what it meant, and answered all of Graham’s questions.
Next came the treatment plan. Graham’s physio understood his worries when it came to being given too many exercises that would be unrealistic to keep up with. Graham was pleased to learn that not only were these exercises just one part of his care, but that there were only a few of them that were easy to learn and complete. Graham’s physio would update these in future appointments based on Graham’s progress, taking the time to show him every technique and ensuring Graham could do it without any difficulties.
Graham’s physio also discussed hands-on massage to help mobilise and manipulate his joints and release trigger points, as well as dry needling to start making noticeable improvements to Graham’s day-to-day life. Graham was taught how to best help look after his body at home, and was surprised to learn that turning down opportunities for exercise and movement wasn’t protecting his body - instead, it may be doing more harm than good due the deconditioning that occurs to the body from inactivity, as well as the many important health benefits of exercise.
Moving Well And Feeling Great
It didn’t take long for Graham to start noticing the changes. His pain levels started to gradually decrease. He didn’t feel like he was on the rollercoaster of bad days and better days anymore. When pain arose, he understood why, and what to do. He saw his physio weekly, and his appointments were covered by DVA. Occasionally, Graham’s physio would also make referrals to other DVA-funded services like podiatry, where he had custom foot orthotics made especially for his feet and to help manage the pain from his knee osteoarthritis.
Perhaps most significantly, pain was no longer the ‘norm’ in Graham’s mind. When it started unexpectedly, which didn’t happen too often due to the care he was now taking of his body, he’d be back to working with his physio and feeling confident and in control. When asked how he’d described his physio experience, Graham replied: life-changing.
Get The Care You Need Today
Accessing the right care under DVA can feel complicated, especially when you don’t know what to expect, or if it can actually help you. At Veteran Benefits Australia, we are dedicated to connecting Australian veterans to the services they need, and are entitled to, so they can keep doing the things they love.
Our team provides a fully-funded service to support you in making sure you have access to the very best services available. To get started, fill in the contact form below.