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Experiences of Student Circus Arts Performers Undertaking a Shoulder Rehabilitation Program Via Telehealth Consultation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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OBJECTIVE: To explore the subjective experiences of student circus arts performers with atraumatic shoulder instability undertaking a 12-week shoulder rehabilitation program during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, in Melbourne, Australia. METHODS: Using a qualitative design, 14 circus arts students from the National Institute of Circus Arts (Australia) were individually interviewed via teleconsultation. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analysed using inductive thematic analysis. RESULTS: Five overarching themes were identified: (i) impact (physical and mental), (ii) opportunity, (iii) developing routine, (iv) client-therapist relationship, and (v) transformation. All participants reported positive physical changes to their shoulder including increases in strength, stability, range of motion, less pain, “clicking” and “clunking,” improved posture, muscle memory, as well as carry-over to functional circus activities. The pandemic’s mental impact varied across the cohort, with positive and negative experiences described in relation to cognitive, social, and affective factors. Most performers felt the pandemic provided an opportunity to focus on rehabilitation of their shoulder. The program effects were also underpinned by positive client-therapist relationships and a progressive transformation of learning where students gained knowledge of their condition, developed tools to manage their current shoulder impairment, and learned how to apply this new knowledge to future management of their condition. CONCLUSION: A shoulder exercise intervention delivered via teleconsultation during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in subjective reports of positive physical changes to the participants’ shoulder health complaint. This was facilitated through client-physiotherapist relationships, providing structure during uncertain times, and by providing education to help in understanding their condition and its future management.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2021

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  • Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsĀ is the first clinical medical journal devoted to the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of medical and psychological disorders related to the performing arts. Original peer-reviewed research papers cover topics including neurologic disorders, musculoskeletal conditions, voice and hearing disorders, anxieties, stress, substance abuse, and other health issues related to actors, dancers, singers, musicians, and other performers.
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