By Jason Niemann, PT, TPS
Returning to work following an injury or surgery can be very difficult. Missing time from work leads to a multiple body system decline in function. After an injury, not only is the injured body part not functioning at its highest capacity, but the worker, as a whole, is not functioning at their highest capacity. Many workers returning from injury struggle with reduced aerobic capacities, reduced strength, reduced flexibility, difficulty fitting in with their co-workers, difficulty returning to their typical sleep schedule and even weight gain. The typical rehabilitation process does very well at examining and treating the injured body part, but often overlooks the rest of the person. This is where work conditioning is different.
Work conditioning is a type of therapy that prepares the worker to meet their specific job demands. The rehabilitation starts with an extensive evaluation which looks at how the worker is currently functioning and compares this to their specific job duties. From this evaluation, a worker-specific program is developed. A program typically consists of aerobic exercise, isolated strengthening and functional work-simulation tasks, although the specifics of each program will vary depending on the needs of the worker. Throughout the program a worker will often schedule 3-5 sessions per week which can each last up to 2 hours, again depending on the worker’s needs.
During every exercise and functional work-simulation task, body mechanics and ergonomics are stressed. This helps the worker increase their body awareness and strength, while reducing the risk of injury/strain when the worker returns to full-duty. Throughout the entire program, the worker will also learn other concepts that help their transition back to work such as icing strategies, pain neuroscience education, and how to progress their exercise program independently after a successful return to work.
If you are struggling to get back to work and are considering work conditioning, please give us a call and discuss it with your physician, as work conditioning typically requires a physician’s referral.