Buzz with Danu - Theruni Wijewardene

Sep 06 2023.

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Today on the Buzz, we have the lady with the magical touch! We chat with THERUNI who founded ‘The Physio’ in January 2014. I had to ask her, are we all suffering from some kind of pain every day, and the answer is YES!! So this made me ask her more questions. Let’s read about her journey and what made her come to Sri Lanka, leaving her life back in Australia. Let’s all live a pain-free life.

What took you into this field? As a kid, I was always physically active and playing different sports and knew I wanted to work in the medical field in some way. I also remember my sister once telling me that I had 'healing hands' and I think that resonated with me strongly. So after I finished my undergraduate in Sports Science, I went on to do my Masters in Physiotherapy.  I have always loved the idea of combining exercise and physical activity with the use of my hands to help people move and feel better. 

Does everyone suffer from some kind of pain and what would you say is the main reason for such pain? Yes, pain is universal and we are all susceptible to it. Pain is quite simply a signal sent from your nervous system to your brain that indicates that something may be wrong so that you can take the necessary steps to react and prevent the pain from worsening. The experience of pain is highly variable from person to person, so some may have high pain tolerance while others may struggle with even light touch.

The most common type of pain is due to tissue damage, for example, if we touch something hot and burn ourselves or suddenly sprain an ankle. Other types of pain can be neuropathic, indicating dysfunction of nerves, and we also see persistent pain, where pain exists without any notable tissue damage. The important thing is to identify the type of pain and what are the main contributing factors and address those. 

What would you tell someone who ignores the pain and still goes about living their life every day? Is this advisable? Not allowing pain to disrupt your life is important. In some cases being able to ignore it and carry on is good. However, in most cases, pain can be managed and people don't have to resolve themselves to live with it. People manage pain in different ways, including medication, and alternative therapy like acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, physiotherapy etc. There are many options out there, and often it's a combination of finding the right treatment as well as changing your lifestyle, nutritional habits, physical activity levels and even your mindset. The more optimistic you are about your pain, the more easily it can be managed. 

Describe a well-balanced lifestyle in your opinion. A well-balanced lifestyle for me would include the ability to spend quality time with loved ones, eating nutritious meals, partaking in regular physical activity that makes me feel strong and healthy, and having enough time to rest, relax and become more spiritually aware, as well as being able to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Most people, including myself, have difficulty maintaining this 'well-balanced lifestyle' due to time constraints. My advice would be to just start where you're at and do what you can, with what resources you have and try to reduce your stress levels as much as possible.

Tell me about when you started your practice in Sri Lanka. how was the market? I initially started working at the Pain Management Centre at Nawaloka Hospital in 2011 under Dr. Harindu Wijesinghe and Prof. Arjuna de Silva after I moved to Sri Lanka. Although all major hospitals had physiotherapy departments there weren't many private physiotherapy practices. When I became pregnant with our first child my husband and I decided that opening our practice would be more practical in the long term. We opened The Physio in 2014 when my eldest was 8 months old.

Physiotherapy was still relatively new at the time and was practised very differently in Sri Lanka compared to Australia (where I had studied and worked). I practised a lot more manual therapy, performed dry needling, taping and exercise rehab that was based on Clinical Pilates, and at the time I don't think there were many others who worked similarly. So I think there was a requirement for more outpatient physiotherapy and private practices, and the market responded well to the difference in how physiotherapy was practiced.  The Physio started growing at a faster pace than we initially anticipated so I think we made the right decision and it completely revolutionised how physiotherapy is now practiced in Sri Lanka today.

What would you say is the common problem that you see in everyone that has pain? I think the most common denominator in people with pain is fear, followed closely by frustration. Pain is such an unpleasant feeling that it creates a lot of fear especially when people don't know, or understand why they're in pain. Some fear because they don't know or haven't been informed correctly about their condition, or maybe they self-diagnosed on Google and have assumed the worst. Fear is also based on what and if anything can be done about their pain and how long it will take to recover. Frustration is common when you can't perform the things you normally would with ease, suddenly you're dependent on others or have to stop doing the things you enjoy so it starts to affect your overall mood. Both these things can affect your pain levels, often amplifying it, so it's important to address these factors early on so the pain doesn't take over your whole life. 

What’s next for your brand? Right now our main focus is on educating the wider Sri Lankan population on what physiotherapy is and how it can help people in different ways. We spend a lot of time on our social media content, keeping it as relevant and informative, and at the same time, as entertaining as possible. The most important thing for our brand is to maintain the quality of service that it has become renowned for over the last 9 years. Our 10th-year anniversary is coming up in January 2024, and this is a massive milestone for us. For now, we’ll keep striving to be the best physiotherapy service provider in the country.


Danu Innasithamby

Danu is a Jaffna Boy with a Marketing qualification (only because he needed to study, and not because he wanted it). He has been a part of the team for seven years and is the face behind Buzz with Danu, and WTF.


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