Canadian Firefighter Magazine

From the Editor: What’s been left unchecked?

Laura Aiken   


Injury prevention is a concern for firefighters, but what about after-the-fact when a sprain or tear happened anyway? When an injury is said and done, what treatment is needed next? And what happens when a pandemic strikes and access to rehabilitation is effectively shut down except for emergencies for some practitioners? Under these circumtances, aches and pains may be left unchecked for too long.

Firefighters need their body in tip-top form, and a recent endeavour by the research group Firewell shows that firefighters deal with injuries at much higher rates than the general population. Firewell recently published a systematic review and meta-analysis titled “Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Canadian Firefighters,” by Goris Nazari, Joy MacDermid and Heidi Cramm. The paper is free to read in its entirety through the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health. This observational study examined the existing body of literature as it pertains to musculoskeletal disorders in firefighters, meaning strains, dislocations, fractures and pain. The review of five eligible cohort studies and the subsequent analysis of the metrics found that firefighters have a much higher rate of injury than the general public. For example, 23 per cent of firefighters are reporting shoulder pain versus an incidence rate of six per cent in the general public. Over a year, 10 per cent of firefighters will develop a new injury, data suggests.

COVID-19 has made for a very disruptive spring, and this includes losing many types of healthcare. As occupational health therapists are starting to return to work in varying degrees across Canada (perhaps by the time you read this, fully back to work everywhere, such is the quick changing nature of this crisis), it is a good time to check in on your aches and pains. There has been a tremendous focus on self-care messaging as of late, but there has also been a lack of available treatment for anything but the most urgent of cases for some vocations. Is this lack of treatment catching up with you?

With pain reports being as they are in this latest wealth of information from Firewell, chances are many firefighters are muscling through and getting worse with appropriate and timely rehab options on hold.


As a firefighter, there aren’t exactly ways to avoid the labour of your work without going on light duty, which may be an undesirable option. The additional layers of complexity wrought by this pandemic may have given extra justification to those already prone to putting off an appointment with their doctor, who may have had challenges recommending, say, massage therapy or a chiropractor, when clinics were closed. If this is you, now may be a great time to check-in with any lingering injuries that might have been left unchecked through the peak of the pandemic.

Print this page


Stories continue below