People who work in labor intensive jobs are often thought of as “industrial athletes” due to the heavy physical demands of their jobs. In such settings, on-the-job injuries tend to be more common and it can be challenging to get back to work, especially when working requires lifting heavy loads, pushing, pulling, walking long distances, etc. In these situations, not only does the injured worker have to heal from their injury, but they also have to restore strength and endurance in order to return to work safely. Physical therapy after a work injury can decrease disability and impairment, so long as you are compliant with the program. Here are five ways your physical therapist can help you prepare to return to work after an injury or illness.
Physical therapy uses a combination of techniques to help reduce pain and inflammation following an injury. Therapists may apply heat, ice, or electrical stimulation to improve your symptoms. Soft tissue mobilization, similar to massage, can also help to improve mobility and decrease inflammation at the site of injury.2 Reducing pain and inflammation will allow you to begin strengthening sooner and help to speed up your recovery process.
Your physical therapist will design a specific exercise program for you to target areas of weakness after your injury. This targeted strengthening can improve your tolerance to completing work-related activities like squatting, lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying. Your physical therapy program will also be designed to strengthen any imbalances that your therapist notices in order to prevent future injury on the job. When it comes to worker’s compensation, therapists are trained to examine the worker and their job demands in a holistic way and strengthen the body globally.
If you are out of work for weeks to months for an injury, it can be hard to go right back into full work shifts, especially when physical demands are high. By completing a physical therapy program, you can retrain your cardiovascular and muscular endurance with exercises and work simulation activities. Your physical therapist may recommend that you complete a work conditioning program which allows you to complete prolonged sessions of work-specific exercise in the clinic until you rebuild your stamina required for your job.
Physical therapists are movement experts. Oftentimes, work injuries occur when workers get tired or have bad mechanics. Physical therapy will retrain your brain and your body to utilize proper lifting mechanics without compensations. Depending on your job, your physical therapist will walk you through proper form with other tasks as well. Learning the proper way to lift and manage heavy loads will help prevent re-injury.
You don’t have to have a job with high physical demands to sustain a work injury. If you have a more sedentary job and spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, physical therapy can still help you recover from injury. Education on proper ergonomic set up for your desk is very important, whether you are working at the office or from home. A few sessions with a physical therapist can help to alter your desk set up, give you options for modifications and improve postural strength and endurance for those long hours of sitting and typing.
At Athletico, our physical therapists are experts at helping injured workers return to work, safely. To learn more about how we can help you or one of your employees, visit our Worker’s Compensation webpage.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1.Richard P Di Fabio, George Mackey, James B Holte, Disability and Functional Status in Patients With Low Back Pain Receiving Workers’ Compensation: A Descriptive Study With Implications for the Efficacy of Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy, Volume 75, Issue 3, 1 March 1995, Pages 180–193, https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/75.3.180
2. Kim, Jooyoung et al. “Therapeutic effectiveness of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilizaiton for soft tisuse injury: mechanisms and practical application.” Journal of exercise rehabilitation vol. 13, 1 12-22. 28 Feb 2018, doi:10.12965/jer1732824.412