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How does physical therapy aid in work-related injuries?

How does physical therapy aid in work-related musculoskeletal injuries:

You are working as a painter, and you are required to reach overhead constantly. Initially, there are no problems, but months and years later, you are experiencing pain in your shoulder to the point that work tasks are challenging to perform. You ignore this until eventually grasping and gripping became difficult. Activities of daily living and functional mobility are compromised, so you should see your primary care physician. You were given medications with no long-term effects. So you take matters into your hand and go to treatment you think can help. Your symptoms are not getting better. You are desperate, so you go to an orthopedic doctor, but you are even frustrated because there was no MRI or X-ray ordered; instead, you are recommended to see a physical therapist. You don't understand why you need to see a physical therapist when you're in significant pain.

Physical Therapy plays a significant role in managing these injuries by providing onsite physical therapy treatment, ergonomic training, injury prevention, work conditioning/work hardening, reduction of cost, and coordination with the company's case manager, MD, or orthopedics to ensure the continuum of care to help you to recover.

  • Onsite Physical Therapy Treatment:

Any injuries at Work caused by trauma or repetitive motions such as reaching, lifting, pushing, and pulling should choose physical therapy as the first line of treatment. Physical therapists are trained and educated on properly managing these types of injuries.

Your Physical Therapist will collect personal information about the mechanism of injury, description and level of pain, time of injury, changes in mobility, and your previous and current functional status.

An orthopedic test is also performed to rule out cartilaginous, ligamental, muscle, and joint dysfunction.

Objective and Subjective data are collected during evaluation to come up with a diagnosis, plan of care, determine prognosis and establish functional goals. The treatment will also follow the healing stages of acute, sub-acute, and remodeling phases.

Acute Stage/ Inflammatory phase. In this stage, symptoms are significant; therefore, immediate care is relevant. Most of the misconception we know is that the rest should stimulate recovery. However, POLICE is more effective in reducing the effect of the inflammatory phase. Protection, Optimum loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Physical Therapy Manual therapy is applied, such as physical therapy massage, joint mobilization and manipulation, muscle energy techniques, and pain inhibition, including modalities and gentle loading of muscle tissues are introduced to facilitate the healing process. This method can usually decrease the development of the chronic stage, which happens slowly over time with lingering symptoms.

Sub acute stage: This stage is critical because when managed incorrectly, the condition could be subjected to plateau. On the other hand, this is an antecedent to remodeling. Corrective exercises continued with optimum loading; re-assessment is essential to progress or adjust the treatment plan based on the patient's response and level of advancement.

Remodeling phase: Functional mobility and functional exercise applied, such as material handling, pushing/pulling, reaching, conditioning, hardening, and return to function.

  • Ergonomic Training: Physical Therapists will be able to work with the company to perform an onsite assessment and contribute to the design of a safe work environment

  • Injury Prevention: Physical Therapists will be able to coordinate with the company to educate staff regarding proper lifting techniques, proper pushing/pulling, proper body mechanics, and exercises to strengthen and stretch to improve body movements and posture.

  • Work Conditioning or Work Hardening: Functional restoration and safe return to Work can be made possible with work conditioning and hardening. These are individualized programs structured by your Physical Therapist to simulate job demands and promote optimum function. It is adjusted based on your medical history, the physical needs of your job, and your level of recovery.

  • Cost Reduction: Work-related injuries can cause significant strain due to loss of compensation, lack of staff, and many more. Joshua Prall and Michael Ross, authors of PT journal (PubMed) entitled "The management of work-related musculoskeletal injuries in an occupation setting: The role of the physical therapist," have presented statistics from Liberty mutual and labor industries regarding economic burden.

  • Physical Therapist will also coordinate with your Doctor, Orthopedic, Case manager, or vocational to ensure a continuum of care as necessary, educate and train you with proper lifting techniques, decrease the risk of re-injuries, and modify movement until recovery obtain.


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