Work Conditioning and Work Hardening

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Physical therapy programs for work injuries can be much more complex than many people think. Some people may think that work injury physical therapy involves simply doing some exercises for a few days and then getting back to work. However, physical therapists often use multiple, individualized phases of treatment to address specific work injuries. 

What are the common phases of work injury rehabilitation?

There are three phases that people typically go through when working with a physical therapist to address a work injury. These phases include: 

Initial treatment — Your physical therapist will initially focus their efforts on reducing your pain and other symptoms. They will also strive to support and supplement your body’s natural healing mechanisms. 

Work conditioning — This is typically the second phase of a work injury rehab plan.  Your work conditioning sessions will vary depending on the goals you’re trying to achieve and the work tasks you typically perform. Often, you’ll have several 2 to 4-hour work conditioning sessions throughout the week. Your physical therapist will help you work on multiple facets of your recovery during these sessions. Some of the things you may work on include:

  • Strength.
  • Mobility.
  • Endurance.
  • Motor control during simulated work tasks.
  • Functional ability. 
  • Ergonomics.
  • Learning how to prevent similar work injuries. 
  • Decreasing the fear of reinjury. 

Work hardening — This is often the third and final phase of work injury rehab programs, and it’s also one of the least used. Work hardening does involve physical therapists continuing to build your strength, flexibility and functional capacity. 

However, it’s also a multidisciplinary type of care. The reason? Work hardening programs tend to include sessions with professionals like psychologists and occupational therapists in addition to physical therapy sessions. Working with these other medical professionals is intended to help address any speech, neurological or psychosocial issues related to a work injury before you return to work. 

Who can benefit from work conditioning and work hardening? 

There are many workers who can benefit from work conditioning. Many workers may also find benefits from work hardening. A few types of worker who may benefit the most from these two treatment options include: 

  • Emergency services workers, such as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, doctors and nurses.
  • Workers involved in construction or building maintenance, including electricians, plumbers, and painters.
  • Law enforcement professionals, such as police officers, corrections officers and FBI agents. 
  • Shipping industry workers, including delivery drivers, loading and processing workers, and Post Office employees. 
  • Office workers.
  • Any workers who have a labor-intensive profession. 

How should I prepare for a work conditioning or work hardening session?

There are many ways you can help maximize the effectiveness of the physical therapy our team offers.  One of these is to wear loose, comfortable clothing. You can wear sturdy supportive shoes to your session, too. The idea is to wear something you’d be comfortable working out in. Many of the physical therapy services used in your sessions will involve active participation from you. Others, like manual therapy or dry needling sessions allow you to take more of a passive role.

When you first arrive for your initial consultation, one of our physical therapists will take you through a thorough patient history questionnaire and physical examination. You’ll be encouraged to ask questions at every point in the session. These questions can help us gain insight into your unique condition. They can also help us provide you with an accurate diagnosis and plan of care. Your unique plan may include evidence-based physical therapy services such as therapeutic exercises, joint mobilizations and manual therapy.

We always encourage our patients to stay well-hydrated both before, during, and after their sessions. Water is essential to helping your body heal. Also, the benefits of active and passive PT services are often increased when you’re well-hydrated. Aim for one third to one half your body weight in fluid ounces per day. You may need to drink more if you exercise a lot or have a physically demanding job.

Armor PT offers effective work conditioning and work hardening services

Looking for work conditioning or work hardening to help address a work injury? You can find the help you’re looking for at Armor Physical Therapy. Our experienced physical therapists can evaluate your injury. We can also build you a recovery plan that’s personalized to fit your needs. Contact us today to find out more about all our work injury rehabilitation services or to schedule an initial appointment to start treating your work injury.

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