Workplace injuries can negatively impact you, your job, and your budget. Being out of work due to an injury sustained on the job sometimes causes psychological side effects such as being afraid to move, making the recovery time for the injury even worse!
Also, being out of work can mean a total or partial loss of income. How can you get on the road to recovery and back to work safely? Physical therapy can help!
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy, or physical therapy, is a type of rehabilitative care. It is a multi-purpose type of health care that provides many benefits to patients while restoring function, improving mobility, and relieving pain.
This care uses safe, customized, and specialized exercises and equipment to help patients restore or improve their physical function and mobility while promoting healing. This specific type of care can be beneficial to those suffering from workplace injuries.
Physical therapy can help you focus on regaining the skills needed to complete both your job functions and those required in your everyday life. Physiotherapy can also help reduce pain, promote long term health, and reduce the time dealing with the injury.
Physiotherapy is performed by highly trained, specialized, and licensed medical professionals known as physical therapists. Not only can they diagnose physical abnormalities, but they also participate in hands-on treatment.
Physical therapists treat patients throughout the entire healing process, from diagnosis to treatment to prevent further injury.
Patients typically receive physical therapy in tandem with the care from their primary occupational medicine physician. This can include medicinal intervention and surgery if needed.
When Is Physiotherapy Used?
Physiotherapy is most often utilized when the injury is sustained to the musculoskeletal system. This means the bones, tendons, ligaments, or muscles were impacted.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, musculoskeletal injuries account for 77 percent of all injury-related healthcare visits. Also, 31% of all work-related injuries are to the musculoskeletal system.
These types of injuries can include overuse injuries such as a neck sprain or shoulder strain to a fall or even carpal tunnel.
Some industries highly susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries include warehouse work, material movers, stockers, nursing aides, and truck drivers.
Physiotherapy is a critical link in treatment because, on average, workers with this type of injury are out of work 44% longer than those with other types of injuries. Musculoskeletal injuries can be quite tricky and complicated to treat and manage.
5 Ways Physical Therapy Could Help Your Work Injury
Physiotherapy has many benefits for those suffering from a work injury. Here are five ways that physiotherapy can get you moving and help you heal!
1. Educational and Patient-Focused
While under the care of a physical therapist, you will receive customized education and guided exercises. After all, all injuries are different. Just because you injured your back, it doesn’t mean that your coworker’s treatment plan for their back injury will be best for you!
Your treatment plan will be tailored to you based upon your specific injury, your limitations, and the goals for recovery. Part of the preparation to return you to work includes learning how to prevent a similar accident from reoccurring while also minimizing risks of future injuries in the workplace.
Physical therapists will also work closely with your occupational medical doctor to ensure continuity of care. They will coordinate your treatment plan to ensure you are getting the care you need to get you back to work as quickly and safely as possible.
The therapist will also continuously evaluate you to measure your progress. This will help them make changes to the treatment plan and can give you a better idea of when you can return to work.
One significant benefit is that you will play an active part in your treatment plan. Any type of rehabilitation is more successful when both the patient and care providers are equal participants.
Physiotherapy thrives on that concept. Not only will you discuss your limitations and goals together, but you will also be completing a large portion of the treatment yourself through at-home exercises.
You will also be given the tools and confidence needed to empower you to take full control of your recovery. By completing the activities, you will also regain confidence in your own ability to move pain-free and trust your balance and stamina.
Plus, you will be given an arsenal of knowledge to help reduce pain in the future, should you happen to slightly aggravate your injury or sustain a similar injury.
They will also teach you how to prevent new injuries such as proper lifting techniques, ways to avoid overuse, and recognizing signs of a potential overexertion injury. You will also be taught proper exercise techniques, which you can use throughout your life.
2. Non-Invasive Therapy
Perhaps one of the most essential benefits of physiotherapy is that it is non-invasive. With some injuries, physiotherapy can be just as an effective treatment as surgery. In fact, some states such as Ohio are now requiring physiotherapy and other non-invasive treatments are attempted for 60 days before surgical intervention for their worker’s compensation cases.
By reducing pain and improving your overall physical health, physiotherapy can effectively heal injured tissues and muscles. This helps increase mobility, eliminating some of the common issues that end up leading to surgery.
You may be wondering what types of non-invasive treatment you may experience in physiotherapy. This can vary depending on your injury and the treatment plan outlined by your doctor and physical therapist. The therapy is all hands-on but can differ based on your diagnosis and needs. Some of the most common treatments used in physiotherapy include:
Stretches- These will be gentle, guided stretches. Your physical therapist will ensure they are done safely and that you are adequately warmed up ahead of time.
Strength building exercises- This may be done with a machine, resistance band, or with your own body weight. Some standard moves include lunges, pushups, and arm and core exercises.
Massage- This is the therapy of using hands to knead injured tissues/muscles. Massage can help in many ways, including reducing inflammation and pain reduction.
E-Stim/TENS Therapy- These therapies include using a device to send wither low-voltage electric currents on painful areas. These block the pain signals sent to your brain by impacting nerve conduction, offering relief. Also, blood flow to the tissue is increased.
Ultrasound Therapy- This is similar to E-Stim/TENS. Here, an ultrasound wave is sent through the body over painful areas. Ultrasound therapy can actually stimulate deep tissues, increasing blood flow, and warming of the muscle.
Heat and cold therapy- Depending on your needs, you will have either heat or cold therapy. The ice will ease inflammation, while the heat will warm the muscles for ease of movement. These also help to stimulate blood flow.
You may also receive at-home exercises to help you in between appointments.
Even if you end up needing to have surgery, by starting with physiotherapy, you will likely be stronger and in better shape than you were before. This helps significantly reduce healing time and helps you to recover more quickly and safely.
3. Reduced Pain
When dealing with a painful injury, pain management can make or break how quickly you can return to full duty at work. Physical therapists will not only treat your injury. They will also evaluate you for weak or stiff areas that are causing added pain and stress.
Physical therapists are mindful of the pain you will experience as you go through your treatment plan. They will work on managing the pain to make you as comfortable as possible.
Physical therapy techniques focus on mobilization of the joints and soft tissue of the body while restoring muscle function. This has been proven in helping to reduce aches and eliminate pain, even when the exact source of the pain is unknown!
Physical therapy helps to manage pain, which helps to reduce the number of prescription painkillers needed. When thinking about pain management, many people are afraid of the use of opioids as they can be highly addictive and overused.
Reducing the use of and the number of opioids prescribed is not only a cost-benefit, but it can also help reduce the risk of addiction. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control has even recommended using physiotherapy as an alternative to opioids.
Physical therapy is not only designed to help you recover from your workplace injury, but it simultaneously focuses on long-term recovery. By focusing on treating the source of the pain, the amount of pain is reduced significantly. Also, with the very nature of physiotherapy trying to reduce the likelihood of future injuries, this can reduce long-term pain.
Also, your physical therapist can be an advocate in determining if you are indeed able to return to work at full or light duty.
If you return to full work duty too soon, you can increase the likelihood of reinjuring yourself or causing yourself unneeded pain and suffering.
4. Decreased Costs
When you are out of work due to an injury, finances can be a significant concern. Physiotherapy is a critical player in helping reduce overall healthcare costs and possibly getting you back to work faster!
After all, physiotherapy can even shorten your recovery time. Without proper exercise, it is easy for an injured area to become stiff and immobile. By continually moving it and increasing the strength and mobility, the injured body part can hopefully be restored to its original capability faster.
A study published in the Health Services Research Journal in 2015 revealed that those suffering from back pain, both acute and chronic, who were treated with physical therapy first saved an average of $4,793. This is compared to those first sent for imaging.
Also, a 2012 study published in Spine states that those patients that receive early physical therapy can save an average of $2,736.23! Where are these savings coming from? By receiving early referrals to physical therapy, the need for advanced imaging, surgery, and prescription pain medications significantly went down.
By using physiotherapy, you could also possibly return to work sooner by returning to light or transitional duty. This will help you get a stream of income back but can also provide psychological benefits by regaining a sense of progress and feeling more useful.
Physiotherapists that have experience with worker’s compensation laws understand their system and can help you navigate it with minimal out of pocket costs.
5. Increase Your Physical Health
When recovering from a work injury, there is a high likelihood that you will have issues getting around and moving.
Your physical therapist can help you with strengthening exercises to help restore your ability to move. They can also fit you for and train you on how to use mobility devices if needed.
The different exercises you will undergo in physical therapy can also help other conditions you may have. By doing aerobic and strengthening exercises this could help control blood sugar levels, helping to manage diabetes.
Symptoms of arthritis can be reduced through the stretching exercises, helping restore range of motion. Some patients that have cardiovascular issues also see increased benefits from physical therapy.
Overall, the exercises will also help to improve your balance, coordination, mobility, and dexterity. These can be quite difficult, especially following severe injuries.
The physical therapist can design situations that will mimic real-life work and every day situations to ensure that you can navigate them safely and with ease.
While dealing with a work-related injury can hurt you physically and also your job and budget, there is hope. By using physiotherapy, you can get on the road to healing, safely and quickly!