Friday 19th July.  Fay Pedler clinic was invited to attend the SEAFIT open day at Plymouth Docks down on Sutton harbour. Myself and practice manager Shula Codd (it was written in the stars!)  were excited to attend to meet the hard-working fishermen and support staff at the dock.

We have been working closely with the Seafarers Hospital Society, Fishermen’s Mission, Seafit and Harbourside Physio (Newlyn) to set up and develop Harbourside Physio network. The main goal of which is to supply free healthcare, in this case Physiotherapy, to all active seafarers (fishermen, merchant seamen, fleet auxiliary etc) within the South west.  Fay Pedler Clinic are the named physiotherapy practice for the Plymouth port and surrounding area.

An open day event in July was held at the port with health providers including physio, health promotion, and the British Red Cross advertising the free care available.

The weather was some of Plymouths best.  Sideways rain and wind!  On the plus side not many fishing vessels went out to sea, so there were plenty of seamen available to talk to. We set up a small treatment room and provided thorough initial assessments whilst our practice manager, Shula, got amongst the fishermen and support staff to brief them about the availability of free physiotherapy,  how to access it, where to find us, how to contact us and the further help and support we offer.

It was exciting to go down to the port, an unfamiliar environment and hear first-hand from the fishermen what their job involves and the physical stress they put their bodies through during a day at work.  A fishermen’s life is very hard work in its own right, then there is the fact you have to do all the work on a moving/rolling deck that may be slippery or even frozen. One guy mentioned how they would use the pitch and roll of the boat to help lift heavy crates of fish. If you used this correctly, then a 30kg weight might only feel like 5 to10 kg. However if you get it wrong a lighter weight can feel much heavier than it really is. We also had a demonstration of the special “lifting techniques” used – it’s no wonder these guys often suffer with back pain, shoulder pain and  muscular injuries.

I had the pleasure to assess four fishermen, all presenting with lower back pain interestingly. Each one stated how they fix themselves in order to stay stable on the rolling deck. This involves standing in a wide stance, lower back slightly extended with knees locked out. Obviously they have adapted these positions out of necessity, however it will put added strain on certain structures especially the joints in the base of the spine.

Since the visit, the majority of the guys I assessed have come back to the clinic to finish their follow up sessions. I am glad to say they have improved with physio input. However, some have struggled to keep appointments due to the changing nature of the Job. They may be out at sea for few weeks at a time, maybe refitting a boat or have to take the opportunity to go out when good weather calls. We are very happy to provide our expertise for these hardworking fishermen and are aware that the nature of their work requires flexibility on health services to provide care when they are available.

The Fay Pedler Clinic have been invited to attend a further open day on Friday 27th September.  I will be attending again alongside another member of the team, Chartered Physiotherapist Catherine Faulconer.  We will both be in attendance between 9 am and 2 pm. We hope to meet more fishermen and support staff to spread the word about the free funded physio sessions.

In closing, Plymouth is a large port but also has a large amount of people working as merchant seamen and in the fleet auxiliary. Please spread the word to any seafarers you know so that they can easily access the free treatment available to them.

Bye for now    RICKY

Useful links