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Top health tips for FIFO workers

August 24th, 2021 by
Category: Chiropractic Care Dr. Bonnie Whittingham FIFO Health & Wellbeing Sleep Stress

By Dr. Bonnie Whittingham, Chiropractor at Total Health Chiropractic Yeppoon

Overhead image of mining site

Before moving to central Queensland, I didn’t know much about what FIFO work involved and the health implications it could have for many people. After practicing in Yeppoon for the past 19 months and helping hundreds of FIFO workers, I have come across recurrent themes and so wanted to share these and give some tips.

What is FIFO work?

FIFO is short for ‘fly in fly out’, however it generally means that people work in a different place to where they live – for some that may be a 2 hour drive and for others it could be a 8 hour drive. This means that people will work on a roster, such as working for seven days and being home for seven days. Majority of FIFO work in Central Queensland is mining based, and a lot of these jobs involve manual labour or operating heavy machinery.

What are the health implications of FIFO work?

So are there health implications with this kind of work? Is it something to be seriously concerned about or just aware of? As with any kind of rostered work, FIFO work can also include day and night shifts. Many people who alternate between day and night shifts have sleep issues, due to their body clock having to chop and change so frequently.

Consistent unbroken sleep is essential for our wellbeing as this is the main opportunity for our body to fully rest in its parasympathetic state and do any healing that needs to be done. If we wake up every few hours tossing and turning, this will naturally start to have implications. Fatigue, headaches and bad moods are what I commonly hear from people with sleep disturbances. On top of a changing sleep pattern, beds in work camps are not always the best. The bed can often be small and either too soft or hard, and the pillows less than ideal.

Then we get to the actual work part. Jobs that involve operating heavy machinery often requires workers to be sat in a certain position for long periods of time, and these positions tend to be very harsh on the body – for example, to operate a dozer, workers must be sat on one angle and look in the opposite direction for hours on end. To add insult to this, they are then driving on uneven ground and the machines do not have the best suspension- meaning the driver will feel a lot of that impact through their body. This can lead to a variety of issues such as aches and pains, headaches or tingling in the limbs to name a few examples.

For people that work on their feet – many FIFO roles involve wearing heavy head gear and to be looking at awkward angles for long periods of time. This can create a lot of pressure and stress through the neck and shoulders and may lead to pain, stiffness, headaches and jaw tension.

In terms of the emotional health, implications for FIFO workers, living away from family is something that needs to be taken into consideration. It might work great for some people, and not for others. That is a very personal decision but one that must be highlighted as chronic stress plays a HUGE role in our overall health and wellbeing. 

Can Chiropractic help FIFO workers?

So, how can a Chiropractor help? Chiropractors work with the spine and nervous system. We assess the spine for incorrect movement or joint position- these are known as subluxations. Having subluxations throughout our spine can cause interference between the messages the brain sends down our spinal cord and to the rest of our body. Our nervous system doesn’t like this kind of interference and so may let us know by causing pain, headaches, brain fog, stiffness and tension (to name some examples). Specific adjustments are performed to the spine to regain normal movement and position so our brain and nervous system can work coherently. 

Top health tips for FIFO workers

Here are my top health tips that I give all FIFO patients that come into practice:

  • Regular Chiropractic adjustments to keep their spine and nervous system healthy.
  • Bring your own pillow out to the site
  • Try and find a job that works with your family’s lifestyle.
  • A regular stretching routine that can be done daily to counteract specific tight muscles. 
  • If you work somewhere where all the food is supplied, figure out if it’s good and nutritious or if you should be bringing along some healthy snacks and alternative options. 
  • Deep breathing exercises to help with sleep and relaxation. 
  • Make the most of your days at home. Allow yourself to rest and relax and don’t try to overcommit to social obligations.

To summarise, FIFO work can be an amazing career choice. However it is physically and emotionally demanding, so ensuring that you have a strong support network and the right health practitioner looking after you is key. 

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