Meet The Physio – Sinead Boyle

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By Karla Borland, from her blog www.whatkarladid.com

Sinead is a physiotherapist based in Ireland. We started rowing together at Bann Rowing Club around 16 years ago (this make me feel very old when I counted the years!). We travelled around Ireland competing in regattas and head races with mixed success but a lot of laughter (we also drove our coaches mad!). Sinead was sports-mad when I met her – playing camogie, running, rowing – studying hard at school and with a reasonable amount of partying too. She had three younger brothers who gave her a fair bit of stick and competition to keep her on her toes! I’ll never forget some of the bruises she used to turn up to training with after a camogie match, usually in the shape of a stick or the ball. They don’t make them soft in the triangle area!

It’s been great to get Sinead to answer some questions about herself, her sporting life and her physiotherapy business. She’s one of the most hard-working people I know.

Tell the readers a bit about yourself….

It’s safe to say that I split my time now between Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland and Portstewart in the north in County Derry. The triangle area in Northern Ireland (Coleraine, Portstewart and Portrush form a 5-mile triangle) is where I spent a lot of time growing up. I was exposed to lots of sports; running cross country at school, athletics, rowing with Bann Rowing Club, camogie with Eoghan Rua Gaelic Athletic Association. I feel that sport is a source of support that has transitioned and moved with me when I’ve relocated to other places for university and work. It has enabled me to get involved in the local community as well as help deal the psychological aspects of being alone in a new place and getting to know people

I currently work as a Physiotherapist, split between public sector and private practice. I set up on my own in private practice (SB Physiotherapy and Pilates) and a teach Pilates to a range of abilities from beginners to advanced. My client load is a mixed bag ranging from general aches and pains, older people following surgery, athletes (of all ranges and abilities) as well as having a specialist interest in Pelvic Health e.g. ante and post-natal women.

What inspired you to become a physiotherapist?

Lots of things- playing sport I wanted to know more about how the body works in training and in day to day life, injuries that I picked up and saw other teammates pick up. I also saw older athletes at Bann and Eoghan Rua that were always wanting to know how to prolong their career in sport.

I feel I have the best of both worlds. I work with a specialist team in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin which is one of the women’s and infant’s hospitals, focusing on Pelvic Health injuries and dysfunction. I can bounce ideas off the other physios and we hang out at break times together. There’s a real good vibe in the team. I also have my own private practice where I teach Pilates, treat the general public with aches and niggles and have a bit more time with clients and I can organise my own diary.

What is the most rewarding thing about the job?

This is difficult as there are a lot and they change as my experience changes!

One that recurrently gives me satisfaction is providing clients with re-assurance and self-empowerment on their condition and rehab. I have recently interviewed a variety of athletes during lock-down to see how they are managing their training and their injury experience. A recurrent theme in their rehab journey was education, knowing and being kept in the loop on the journey, not just dictated to. They are always grateful and relieved to know that they aren’t the only one to have their problem or condition and to know they aren’t alone. That is definitely, for me, the biggest return I get from the job.

Physiotherapy isn’t the answer to everything but for clients to know that they can work with us to try and change their condition is key. They might not get the final end result they wanted but to know that they have tried, are with professionals who are educating them about their condition and supporting them- that’s the positive feedback that we get.

How did you decide to set up your own business?

Choice and force, a mixture of the two. I had always dabbled in private practice working in some great clinics where I learnt a lot both from a business and a physiotherapy perspective. When working for Gillian and Sonia in Belfast Pilates and Physiotherapy I joined them quite early into their business development and saw how driven they were to get their business expanding and that appealed to me. It is another string to your bow and another challenge to keep you interested instead of the same job day in, day out. Having a private practice element essentially means you’re a business owner and developer as well as a physiotherapist so it keeps things busy and challenging- every day is a learning day!

What aspects of physiotherapy are you passionate about? 

I’ve always been interested in the functional and exercise/sport side of Physiotherapy- I completed rotations in all the core areas but the out-patient clinic was what I enjoyed most. I enjoy the challenge of managing clients in front of you and I combined my interest in sport and in women’s health after seeing family and friends training during pregnancy and returning to sport after delivery. I’ve headed down the specialist path of post-natal care and later stages in women’s life. My focus is ‘prevention is better than cure’ – if we can educate and teach our new mums to return to sport, activity and life safely and on a graded return, in the same way that athletes return to sport after injury, then the evidence would suggest that this would prevent further issues down the line. I have an interest in tying this in with my sport and experience of sport and how this can be done safely for mums of any age. The benefits of exercise and sport are tenfold, we could speak all day about them, but I’m not sure we are getting it right in the health system in general. We need to educate on how to combine motherhood and exercise. Luckily there are a lot of professionals helping to drive research and develop that area.

What are the most common reasons you see athletes?

Soft tissue niggles- usually as a result of increasing the intensity or type of their training too quickly and the muscles, ligaments and tendons do not get a chance to adapt.

The difficulty with rehab with athletes, especially amateur ones, is that 1) they are trying to juggle work and training, so you have to be mindful of that and 2) they want to run, train and lift weights for physical and usually mental health benefits. You also need to get them on board and work with them instead of dictating to them for rehab.

Working in an orthopaedic hospital previously, it would be all early intervention post-op so for example ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction. The science and evidence is ever changing into optimum early management so it was interesting to be at the forefront.

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve rotated and worked in different places to had good exposure to most things.

Lots of us have more time during the lockdown to focus on injury prevention- can you suggest any good ways to start?

Be realistic- I’ve recorded a few interviews with athletes from various categories and one thing was repeatedly coming up- they initially were trying to keep up their training load and regime as they wanted to be fit in a couple of weeks after lockdown lifted. But now that we are into week 6 or more of lockdown and more large meetings and events are being rescheduled their training load needs to change. There aren’t going to be any major races so it’s good to take the time now to work on previous injuries/weaknesses. It’s a great opportunity to talk to a physiotherapist if you have had previous injuries, no matter how old, to see what you can do. They can often do an online movement assessment for you and give you a few things to work on. It’s also a good opportunity to do some Pilates, Yoga or Mobility work that previously you wouldn’t have had time to do or normally put off. It might be possible to contact a strength and conditioning trainer to ask for a program to develop strength and avoid injury when you’re able to get back to training.

If you haven’t been doing HIIT or interval training up until now, please try to resist doing some every day for the next few weeks as your tendons and muscles aren’t used to it and this will cause overload tendon issues.

If you are injured pick up the phone or the beauty of the internet means you’re physio doesn’t have to be down the road to see you virtually- you could contact a Physio in Dubai if you wanted- don’t keep hammering away at exercises, pick up a niggle, rest and then expect for the tendon/muscle to be ok when you go back 3 days later.

It’s always about load management!

What’s the worst injury you’ve seen on the camogie/hurling pitch?!

As a player, one of our team-mates in the Ulster final sustaining a fractured tibial plateau and O’Donoghue’s triad injury (full tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus) from a contact injury.

From a Physio point of view, I’ve been lucky- ACL’s are common, assessing for head injuries is now thankfully becoming the norm but no major incidents as yet- hopefully that is set to continue!

You can find Sinead on Instagram @smgboyle or for physiotherapy @sbphysiotherapypilates. Her website is www.sineadboyle.com.