The basics of injuries at work
- We provide physical therapy when a patient has experienced a harmful, traumatic work-related injury.
- These injuries, such as slips, trips and falls, are extremely common in employees of all ages, across all industries and abilities.
- Services we provide for work injuries are generally covered by state of California workers’ compensation benefits.
- Spine & Sport Physical Therapy evaluates a patient’s workplace injuries and creates a care plan, providing treatment to ease pain and improve physical function as needed.
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What are work-related injuries?
Every year, millions of workers are injured on the job. Different professions demand a variety of physical abilities, including strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination. Whether carried out infrequently, often or consistently, job responsibilities have a lasting physical impact on the employees who perform them.
Overuse injuries may happen to workers who do repetitive tasks, such as those on an assembly line. Workers who engage in physically demanding work are more vulnerable to musculoskeletal problems including strains and sprains. Desk-bound workers may experience severe shoulder, neck or back pain as a result of poor workplace ergonomics. Overall, these issues typically fall into five areas:
- Strains – these are one of the more common issues, often caused by repetitive motions like lifting or even sitting for prolonged periods. Physical therapy can help with strained muscles and subsequent pain.
- Slips and falls – these are extremely common causes of workplace injuries as they can occur in just about any environment. Extensive physical therapy may be needed in order to address the resulting injuries.
- Falling objects – falling objects can injure specific body parts but most often cause concussions. Physical therapists can evaluate the injury and assess whether treatment is required.
- Mechanical accidents – these injuries typically involving machinery entanglements with fingers, hair or clothing.
- Motor vehicle accidents – vehicular accidents can cause a range of serious damage from whiplash and concussions to chronic pain.
Who can treat work-related injuries?
Individuals, in conjunction with their physical therapist and physician, can address mild workplace injuries such as sprains with rest, avoiding strenuous or repetitive motions of affected area and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) or cold packs to minimize swelling.
Physical therapists and occupational therapists can evaluate and treat these impairments to improve and recover function. The physical therapist will perform a biomechanical analysis and develop a treatment plan specifically designed for the patient’s work requirements. Patients can make an appointment with Spine & Sport Physical Therapy and begin treatment. (See more on physical therapy treatment below.)
Physicians will coordinate care with the physical therapist and treat the more severe worker injuries requiring surgery, such as complex fractures, burns or other issues.
Risks of not treating work injuries
People with untreated injures can often make issues worse. They also risk slower recovery, secondary injuries or lasting loss of function. Depending on the injury, this may also complicate workplace performance.
Physical therapy and workers’ compensation
Physical therapy for work-related injuries is most often covered by workers’ compensation benefits. Up to 24 physical therapy visits and occupational therapy visits are generally covered per non-surgical work-related injury.
Workers’ compensation (workers’comp) is a type of mandatory insurance coverage carried by employers in the state. This covers the physical and occupational therapy treatments we perform for work-related injuries. The California Division of Workers’ Compensation manages the program and offers guidelines for people injured at work.
Spine & Sport Physical Therapy works with the workers’ compensation claims administrator on authorization of treatments we provide patients related to workplace injuries. We are experienced at following all guidelines in treatments and record-keeping to ensure a patient’s treatment is appropriately covered.
What to expect in treatment for injuries at work
Physical therapists or occupational therapists provide treatment specific to the work injury issues. As with all physical therapy, our team will first evaluate and assess the injury to establish the severity of the injury. This involves testing and evaluating the patient’s movement, strength, coordination, balance and biomechanical demands of the job.
After completing a thorough examination, Spine & Sport physical or occupational therapists then prescribe a personalized treatment plan based on the root cause of the problem. Plans take into consideration a patient’s specific goals, typical everyday workplace movements (such as sitting, standing, reaching or lifting) and the impairments that were found on the examination.
While each care plan is tailored to the individual and specific issue, treatment may include manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, stretching, ergonomic and postural training and simulating work tasks geared toward improving function. Our therapists provide holistic treatment for optimal recovery.
Treatments take place at a Spine & Sport Physical Therapy clinic near the patients, who are also assigned at-home exercises to be completed on their own. Exercising outside of regular appointments helps to maximize the benefits of therapy.
Specific work-related physical therapy treatments
The overall goal is to get the injured worker in shape to improve strength so she or he can safely return to work and to also prevent future injuries. This involves education, evaluation and a variety of therapies listed here. Following are other therapies and evaluations particularly useful for injured workers.
Functional capacity evaluation
The purpose of a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) is to obtain information related to a workers’ compensation claim to assess a variety of issues, including functional loss, ability to return to work, validity of an injured worker’s complaint and the nature of the injury. One of our physical or occupational therapists who is trained as an FCE technician performs the evaluation, which can be requested by a doctor to assist in completing the injured party’s medical report.
The FCE includes a discussion with the patient about his or her abilities related to work activities. The patient is also evaluated in performing certain tasks. The FCE assesses physical and behavioral issues related to the patient’s ability to perform work. It also helps us determine treatment goals and the best course to recovery.
Workplace ergonomics training
A well-designed workplace prevents injuries, particularly work-related musculoskeletal disorders. These include injuries or disorders of the carpal tunnel, spinal discs, muscles, joints, tendons and cartilage.
The solutions we offer patients relate to evaluating their specific tasks and the workplace environment to avoid risk factors in order to reduce muscle fatigue, improve productivity and cutback on the severity and number of injuries. Part of our treatment for injured workers involves educating them on the best posture while performing work tasks and on the best way the workplace can be set up to reduce musculoskeletal disorders.
Learn more about physical therapy exercises
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Spine & Sport clinics offering workplace injury treatment near me
All of our clinics in Southern & Northern California offer physical therapy services for injuries at work.