Injuries at work or home are all too common. In most cases, they affect the musculoskeletal system, which contains the muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and nerves. If you have an injury, occupational physical therapy can be a key factor in helping you recover as quickly as possible, so you can return to work and your normal activities safely.
What Is Physical Therapy?
Occupational physical therapy focuses on restoring your mobility, strength, function, and range of motion when you are affected by an injury, illness, or disability. The purpose of it is to teach you to perform daily and work activities with ease. It also intends to help reduce your risk of injury in the future. Occupational physical therapy utilizes a holistic approach rather than just focusing on the individual aspects of an injury and involves the patient directly in their own care.
Some of the main approaches used by physical therapists include:
- Manual therapy – where the therapist uses their hands to manipulate, mobilize, and massage body tissues to help relieve pain, inflammation, and stiffness, improve blood circulation, and encourage better movement and function in specific areas of the body.
- Personalized exercise/rehabilitation program – exercises and physical activity advice tailored to the patient’s exact needs to help improve mobility, and general health, and to strengthen specific parts of the body.
- Education and advice – general advice to improve day-to-day activities, such as posture when sitting and standing, and correct lifting or carrying techniques to help prevent injuries.
- Retraining – where the therapist teaches the patient to do various movements involved in their daily life post-injury, surgery, or illness. Examples include how to get in and out of a bathtub, how to write and type on a computer, and how to put on clothes and shoes – all without injuring yourself. Retaining is also a big part of therapy for those who need to learn new ways to do daily tasks.
What Health Conditions Can Occupational Physical Therapy Help With?
Occupational physical therapy can benefit people of all ages with a wide range of health conditions. It can be particularly beneficial for people with work-related musculoskeletal disorders, such as:
- Muscle, tendon, ligament, or nerve injuries – such as sprains, strains, muscle spasms, tendonitis, bursitis, and nerve compression.
- Chronic or acute neck and back pain – such as from a spine injury or poor posture.
- Upper extremity conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and limited movement in the arm, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis (inflammation of tendons), rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, and tendonitis
- Physical therapy can also help with other work-related injuries, such as lung disorders, an infected wound, a severe burn, or an amputation.
Physical therapy can help to improve physical activity, relieve pain associated with an injury, and increase strength and range of motion. It can also limit further damage and speed up recovery time, enabling you to return to work sooner.
What Are the Signs I Need Occupational Physical Therapy?
In some cases, it can be obvious that an injury requires medical intervention, however, there are some factors and symptoms that can get overlooked and may benefit from occupational physical therapy. If you experience the following signs or symptoms, you may need occupational physical therapy:
You have ongoing pain. If you have had an injury that doesn’t seem to be healing or is taking longer than expected to improve, therapy may help. Some injuries, particularly back or neck injuries, can get worse if left untreated and can impact your life at work and at home. A therapist can work with you to identify the root cause of your pain and develop a customized treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
You are finding daily tasks increasingly difficult. If you are struggling with normal tasks and activities or are finding certain movements are becoming more difficult, occupational physical therapy can help. A therapist can assess your body’s functional and joint-specific movements, and work with you to restore function and improve the quality of your movements safely.
You are experiencing discomfort at your desk. Sitting at your desk or driving for extended periods of time can put a strain on your back, neck, and other joints. It can also lead to poor posture, which can result in chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain and dysfunction. An occupational therapist can work with you to resolve your symptoms, improve your posture when at your desk, and help prevent future problems. They can also provide advice on achieving a good desk setup to improve comfort and reduce the risk of injury.
What Can I Expect from Physical Rehabilitation Services?
The main goal of a physical therapist is to establish the root cause of your injury and to work with you to reduce pain, improve your mobility, strength, and balance, and reduce the risk of future problems. Part of a therapist’s role is to teach you about cause and effect in the human body, such as neck pain resulting from poor posture or sitting for too long. They can help you adjust how you move in your day-to-day activities and help to address and correct any problems.
Occupational physical therapy services help workers return to work safely and reduce the likelihood of re-injury. Treatment plans are individualized and may include hands-on manual therapy, massage, specific exercises, heat or cold therapy, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to enhance recovery.
Occupational Physical Therapy, Grand Junction, CO
At WorkPartners Occupational Health, our highly trained providers specialize in the treatment of workers’ compensation injuries. We follow workers’ compensation rehab standardized protocols. This includes carrying out functional capacity evaluations (FCEs) to evaluate an individual’s safe functional tolerances and physical limitations relative to their work activities.
We can help determine the level of participation and activity that is right for injured workers following their rehabilitation to ensure they are able to return to work without the risk of re-injury.