When you think of Occupational Therapy, do you think “work”? Many do! But that is too narrow. Occupational Therapy focuses on returning the student, client, or patient to daily tasks they need/want to do throughout their life. These functional tasks are labeled “occupations” and include feeding, dressing, bathing, house and yard chores, meal preparation, school work, driving, caregiving, recreation, and work too! This list is not exhaustive, and the different “occupations” importance varies with age, injury/illness, and individual goals. For example, in pediatrics, an Occupational Therapist obviously will not work on driving skills with a preschooler. Occupational Therapists evaluate and collaborate with the individual to implement a customized treatment plan and re-evaluate with functional outcome measures to assess progress toward the individual’s goals.
Every job presents its own set of physical and mental challenges. However, no matter what demands our ergonomics or how we use our bodies while interacting with our work environments and surroundings, it affects how we feel during and after the day. It can be helpful to think of our bodies as tools with specific jobs and purposes and should be used as efficiently as possible to prevent injury and pain.
Thinking about ergonomics from a few fundamental themes can help keep safety and efficiency at the forefront of our minds. Themes such as posture, positioning, and performance are married to ergonomics, and if we think of these ideas proactively, we can stay safe while at work.
The American Physical Therapy Association describes Physical Therapists as “movement experts who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.” As physical therapists, with our patient’s help, we shape their goals around what improves their specific quality of life. Often, we picture athletes returning to sports or patients relearning how to walk. Less commonly, we think about the importance of injured workers returning to their jobs without limitations. It’s easy to understand why the rehabilitation process for return to sport is so intense and personalized for a patient. The rehabilitation process for return to work should be just as intense and personalized to assist the employee in reaching their goals.
In 2019, the CDC estimated that 2.4 million workers sustained work-related injuries. Work injuries carry a unique set of stress for the injured worker combining the recovery challenges with the unknown ability to return to work.
Many patients are prescribed physical or occupational therapy to address pain and loss of function associated with their injury. Often, the injured workers can fully recover and return to their prior physical ability. Yet achieving this goal only addresses one of the two concerns for the injured worker. After regaining function, the injured worker is often left wondering if they will be able to make a full return to work.
Completing an Occupational Therapy program for an upper extremity injury helps many individuals regain the skills and abilities to return to their jobs and daily activities. However, significant injuries will sometimes require additional time to improve endurance, strength, safety, and confidence to return to work. These select individuals may benefit from Work Conditioning, an individualized rehabilitation program created and overseen by a therapist and designed to help an injured worker cross the bridge between acute therapy and return to work.
Whether you are working at home or the office, it is important to consider your workplace setup. Due to poor workplace setups, pain can occur, limiting people in all areas of life. In this blog, we will discuss ways to improve workplace ergonomics.
Approximately 1 in 4 mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) in adults occur at work and are associated with substantial productivity loss, economic burden, persistent symptoms, and occupational disability1. Concussions in the workplace are most commonly caused by falls, getting struck in the head by falling objects, or motor vehicle accidents2. Most adults recover from an mTBI or concussion within 7-10 days; however, individuals who continue to have persistent symptoms beyond this timeframe are more at risk for further co-morbidities, including aerobic deconditioning, chronic pain, anxiety disorder, depression, as well as poor work performance3.
Many people throughout their lives have encountered back pain. In fact, as many as two-thirds of adults will be affected by back pain at some point in their lives. Anyone that has had to deal with back pain knows how difficult it can be. However, back pain comes with difficulty in determining what treatment options are best, what will happen if I can’t work, and what can I do to make sure this back pain doesn’t happen again.