People working in construction site. Young men at work in new house inside apartment building. Latino manual worker helping injured co-worker after accident on duty

Common Misconceptions about Rehab and Workers Compensation

When an injury threatens your ability to work and earn a living, it can throw your whole life off balance. Navigating a work injury can be a learning process for both employees and employers. With the right information, this process should be smooth and effective. Let’s explore three misconceptions in rehab regarding Workers’ Compensation and how to best choose your course of care to assist in getting you back to work safely.  

Myth #1: I’m hurt, I don’t want to re-injure myself in PT and miss more work.” 

This is a common misunderstanding held by injured workers and is completely understandable. It is a therapist’s job as a “healer” and educator to reassure the worker that their goals are aligned and that the therapist is prioritizing a safe return to work approach. 

On their first visit, their clinician will review their mechanism of injury, as well as any medical records with appropriate differential diagnosis (imaging x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs etc.) and identify where they are in the healing process. All interventions will take these aspects into consideration to formulate a safe and effective treatment program to achieve that goal.  

Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists are highly trained experts in the musculoskeletal field and are well-equipped to decipher a “hurt not harm” program appropriate for all phases of healing. Although the level of pain is assessed in the evaluation and education on coping strategies and self-management is given during your treatment plan, it’s not a red flag to halt intervention. A PT/OT will proceed with a combination of other objective measures such as joint range of motion, strength testing, swelling, and quality of movement observed to complete functional activities.  

Early mobility and rehabilitation empower the injured worker to combat a mindset of disability. Therapy sessions allow for the worker to regain some control and participate directly in their care. Further costly tests and prescription medications can foster a sentiment of inactivity or control in their return to work. 

Myth #2: “I can go anywhere for my Workers’ Compensation claim.” 

Yes and no, mostly no. Workers’ Compensation works similarly to your private health insurance. Like private health insurance, there are “networks” that employers work with directly to facilitate care. These healthcare providers have teamed up with Workers’ Compensation Carriers to provide the best practice levels of care with the goal for workers to safely return to work.

Often a Nurse Case Manager, NCM, will be assigned to a claim and can be the worker’s liaison to the healthcare required for recovery. The NCM may help set up appointments with these Workers’ Compensation provider networks. They can also guide or answer any questions on treatment strategies, diagnostic imaging, and return to work restrictions, amongst other injury-related questions.

Myth #3: All physical therapists can treat my injury; it doesn’t really matter where I go.”

In school, therapy providers are taught how to return our patients to their activities of daily life and base their treatment program on their goals. For athletes, therapy providers are taught to focus on improving performance, strength, endurance, or flexibility of muscles to return the athlete to return to play for their sport. Therapy providers are movement specialists, and are taught to understand when an individual needs to increase range of motion, strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Likewise, for any person who sustains a work-related injury, return to work should be the primary goal. Developing a return-to-work program is an advanced skill and requires additional resources since traditional academic programs do not teach these skills. Most therapy providers learn from treating this patient population firsthand or invest in continuing education programs to develop these skills. Since the long-term goal is safe, effective return to work, treatment plans will look and feel different for each individual. Individualized treatment plans will involve the tasks that the patient performs at work on a daily basis. It is key for the therapy provider to speak with all stakeholders to understand the job description, job tasks, and skills required to return to work at the same level of work status as before the injury. Having this type of collaboration with the therapy provider and stakeholders will improve the overall care and position the patient for a successful return to work.  

We can help 

Ivy Rehab specializes in treating patients with work-related injuries. The goal of our program is to efficiently rehabilitate injured workers and to lessen the number of days lost to work-related injuries. When you’ve been injured at work, we are here to help you get back to feeling like yourself as quickly as possible. While working to treat injuries, we offer personal one-on-one care that will allow patients to reach their goals and return to work safely. 

We have developed a unique “return to work” program that goes beyond standard worker’s comp procedures, featuring a work-hardening gym that mimics a patient’s actual work environment. Standard therapy gets patients to a certain point, but that’s not the same as preparing them for the exact motion or stress they will face on the job. 

Our Work Conditioning program offers customized, work-related, highly structured, goal-oriented treatment specifically designed to restore your ability to perform your job. Our therapists have the necessary knowledge and experience to deliver better work-related therapy outcomes, faster. When you choose Ivy Rehab, you can expect a safe transition back to work and education to prevent re-injury. Click here to find a location near you. 


Article By: Marcus Shelton, MSPT, Cert. MDT 

Marcus began his Physical Therapy career 24 ago. He loves working with the outpatient orthopedic population and believes in the importance of providing highly functional and goal-oriented treatment programs.  He currently specializes in spinal intervention, sports, and occupational medicine. He enjoys working with patients from all ages with musculoskeletal deficits to reach their pre-injury function.  He currently treats patients at Ivy Rehab in Fair Lawn, NJ.  

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

Share this article!