Physical Therapy and Workers Compensation Injuries
Getting injured hurts, and getting injured at work can be especially painful. Work injuries that affect individuals’ ability to perform their jobs can affect not just their physical health but may have far-reaching impacts such as:
- Financial health in the ability to provide for their families
- Emotional health in their sense of pride and self-worth
- Social health in their interactions with colleagues and co-workers
Having the right physical therapist is vital for helping you recover, safely return to your pre-injury self, and stay healthy!
Physical Therapy for Workers Compensation Patients
Physical therapy is an integral part of recovering from most workplace injuries. By the very nature of the rehabilitation profession, physical therapists are the members of your care team that you will likely see the most. They will work hand in hand with you to restore your physical capabilities to your pre-injury levels.
Common Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries can be both traumatic and repetitive use or overuse injuries, meaning the risk of sustaining an injury increases as the physical demands of the job increase. However, slips, falls, and other injuries can occur in any work setting, including sedentary or office jobs.
Slips and falls are the most common mechanism of on-the-job injuries, and the hands are the most commonly injured body part. Specific common workplace injuries include:
- Ankle sprains
- Wrist sprains
- Low back sprains/strains
- Neck strains
- Shoulder strains
- Rotator Cuff injuries
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Herniated discs
- Tendon tears
Treatment of Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries are treated with physical therapy much like any other musculoskeletal injury. Physical therapists are considered the movement experts in the medical field and are trained in treating individuals with all types of pain and dysfunction.
Physical therapists act to reduce acute pain and inflammation from the injury and improve range of motion and strength of affected joints or body parts. Skilled manual therapy and early functional exercises completed in physical therapy have been shown to help individuals recover more quickly from work-related injuries.
Overall, physical therapists help people who have had an injury return to the same level of function they were performing before sustaining the injury. In short, physical therapists help people get back to their “100%”. Physical therapy is a crucial element of the care plan for any Worker’s Compensation injury claim.
Some goals set forth for you in physical therapy are based on the physical demands of your job. To best care for you and allow you to return safely to performing job functions, work conditioning is often beneficial following the initial course of physical therapy.
If you get injured at work, your first step is to notify a supervisor or HR representative at your employer. Your injury claim will be reviewed and assigned a claim number once accepted by your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier.
The insurance carrier pays all applicable medical bills related to your injury via that claim number. Injured workers bear no out-of-pocket cost for treatments received for the on-the-job injury.
After filing an injury claim, the first medical provider you will see will be a physician. This can be at an ER, Urgent Care, Occupational Health facility, or another setting. Often, unless there is a medical or musculoskeletal emergency, such as a broken bone that needs to be set, physical therapy is prescribed early on in the case. Ample research has shown a significant benefit to early initiation of physical therapy for all musculoskeletal injuries, especially in a Worker’s Compensation injury claim.
After your injury claim is reviewed and approved, you will be assigned a claims representative or a case manager. This individual serves as your main point of contact for answering questions and coordinating your care needed to help you return to a full recovery. Physical and occupational therapists communicate regularly with your claims representative or case manager to update them on progress, assist, and advocate on your behalf to ensure the best recovery.
Injury Prevention in the Workplace
Intrinsic or extrinsic elements may factor into injury risk, and several things can be done to prevent injuries in the workplace. Physical therapists can help identify and counter both factors to lower injury or re-injury rates.
What employees can do themselves to try to prevent injuries:
- Pre-shift stretching
- Whole-body conditioning
- Maintaining Joint-specific strength for a given job task
- Body awareness and postural sense to limit loading edges of joint range of motion
Specific things that specially trained physical therapists can provide to employers to lower their workforce’s injury rates include:
- Early Intervention Services
- On-site Injury Prevention
- Job Demands Analysis
- Ergonomic Assessment
- Job Modifications
How can Physical Therapy help
If you’ve been hurt on the job and need to get back to your “100%,” contact your nearest Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy location or visit us on our website to request an appointment online.
Your Worker’s Compensation journey often begins in pain and uncertainty but ends with confidence, strength, and return to function when you have a physical therapist, an expert in the field, in your corner to help you navigate the course.
Article By: Matt Lesniak, DPT
Matt began his physical therapy career 13 years ago, graduating with his DPT degree from Northwestern in 2009. He loves working with the full range of patients seen in the outpatient environment and has treated individuals from four years through 90+ years old. He believes in the importance of providing rehab plans that integrate creative exercises with manual therapy to help patients meet their health and functional goals. Matt specializes in overhead athletes, runners, individuals post-ACL injury, and Industrial Athletes. For those individuals, as with all of his patients, he strives to rehabilitate and educate on joint loading and movement patterns to recover from an injury fully and to prevent future recurrence. Matt currently treats patients at Ivy Rehab in Lisle, IL.