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Everything You Need To Know About Work Conditioning

Everything You Need To Know About Work Conditioning

by Jeff Botta, PT, Workers' Compensation Program ManagerLeave a Comment

Have you ever been injured at work? Have you ever had to file a Workers’ Compensation claim with your employer? If so, then you may have heard the term Work Conditioning before and wondered, what is that? Today we will break down the layers of Work Conditioning to help identify the what, when, why, who, and how so you can determine if this is a service that may be right for you, or someone you know.

What Is Work Conditioning?

Work Conditioning is a comprehensive, job specific rehabilitation program that aids injured workers in returning to their previous job following an injury. These programs are designed around the essential job functions and physical demands of an individual’s required work tasks with an employer. Programs are customized to the individual based on the tasks that they perform at their worksite.

When is Work Conditioning Used?

These programs are usually performed with patients following a course of traditional physical therapy. While traditional physical therapy typically focuses primarily on the injury as it relates to the job, i.e. strengthening an injured knee so that an employee can go back to work; work conditioning focuses more on the job related to the injury, i.e. if the job requires lifting a 50 pound box, walk for 30 feet and place it on a 36 inch high shelf, can the injured worker do that without being limited by their knee?

Why Is Work Conditioning Necessary?

These programs are necessary to bridge the gap between traditional physical therapy and a full return to work for injured workers. The treatment plan focuses primarily on work specific training and building endurance in order to allow workers to safely return to their previous job function.

Who Is Work Conditioning For?

Typically, Work Conditioning is for injured workers recovering from an orthopedic condition or chronic pain issue that has caused them to be out of work completely or to be placed on work restrictions. This type of rehabilitation is best for those classified in a medium physical demand job and above. A medium physical demand job is defined by needing to be able to lift 50 pounds occasionally (or up to 1/3 of the workday), and 25 pounds frequently (or up to 2/3 of the workday). An example of a medium physical demand level job could be an employee at a distribution center, where they are picking items off shelves and building pallets to be shipped out.

How Is Work Conditioning Performed?

A rehabilitation professional will perform an initial Work Conditioning Evaluation to assess a worker’s current physical capabilities. Based off those findings, a customized, job specific program will be created for the individual. These programs will include cardiovascular training, strength training, flexibility training, material handling, functional movement training, and job simulation activities. Programs typically consist of 3-4 hours of activities, five days per week. Programs are reevaluated session to session to determine what progressions are appropriate for the injured worker based on their performance. Most courses of Work Conditioning will last between 2-4 weeks.

If you are an injured worker or know an injured worker that has missed time at work or been placed on a modified level of duty, consult your medical professional to see if a Work Conditioning program may be a good option for you! At Athletico, we offer programs that support the return to work of injured workers while decreasing their risk for further injuries. To learn more, please visit

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.

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