PILR – Tenielle MaGee: The Role of Work Conditioning and Work Hardening in Post Injury Reduction Losses

DF Safety HSE Compliance, Management and Leadership, Small Business Safety Solutions, Workplace Safety

Work Conditioning and Work Hardening programs are designed to help you regain enough strength & function to return to work. 

Today, Tenielle MaGee, an alumnus of the University of Alberta in BSc in Physical Therapy and CEO of Navisess, Leduc Physiotherapy and Compression Care will guide us through what Work Conditioning and Work Hardening are.

Return to Work Programs are ideal for patients that have progressed through their physical therapy treatments but lack full function relative to their specific required work tasks. Work conditioning and work hardening use real or simulated work tasks to help prepare clients for a safe transition back into the workforce while preventing new or worsened injuries. 

What is Work Conditioning?

Work conditioning is a rigorous conditioning program designed to help patients regain their systemic, neurological, cardiopulmonary, and musculoskeletal functions. This includes strength, mobility, power, endurance, motor control, and functional abilities. Work conditioning provides a middle step in the process of returning to work.  

The goals of a work conditioning program are to:  

  • restore the patient’s physical capacity and functional abilities 
  • prevent the recurrence of the same injury  
  • decrease their fear of returning to work. 

What is Work Hardening?

 Work hardening is an individualized, highly structured program designed to help patients return to their pre-injury work level in a safe and timely manner. It aims to help patients regain their biomechanical, cardiovascular, metabolic, neuromuscular, and psychosocial functions in conjunction with their work tasks.  

Work hardening is multidisciplinary, using a physical therapist, kinesiologist, and physician in conjunction with the client’s employer, legal team, insurance provider, and/or any other involved parties.  

It includes strengthening and flexibility exercises, cardiovascular conditioning, spine & joint stabilization exercises, and job task training (i.e. pushing, pulling, crouching, lifting, bending, sitting, or twisting). 

Who Benefits from Work Conditioning and Work Hardening?

  • New employees who may not match “fit for hire” outlines. 
  • Individuals looking to improve their functional ability for daily demands. 
  • Professionals who are involved in repetitive, heavy, and physically demanding work. 
  • Any client returning from an injury and/or disability who requires job-specific functional improvements. 

What to Expect

 Work conditioning and work hardening is a 4- to 8-week functional program designed to meet the specific job needs of the patient but may increase in length depending on the client’s needs. 

Work conditioning sessions often begin at a frequency of 1-3 hours for 2-3 days each week and may progress as a work hardening program at a frequency of 2-4 hours for 3-5 days per week. Each program is customized to treat specific injury/weakness and is tailored to what the treating physician prescribes. The time and length of the sessions can usually be around the patient’s work schedule. 

Functional Baseline

During the first visit, an evaluator will assess the injury and review the patient’s needs in relation to their job. 

To determine the patient’s functional baseline, the therapist will need to determine: 

  1. Current physical activeness (sedentary, light, medium, or heavy). 
  2. Aerobic capacity (poor, fair, average, good, or excellent). 
  3. Grip strength. 
  4. Mobility, core, and joint-specific strengths in relation to their injury. 

After determining the functional baseline, the therapist creates an individualized program designed to increase current physical abilities. This is done with medium to high intensity cardiovascular and strengthening exercises as well as stretching and mobility conditioning tailored to the tasks the patient is required to perform. The referring physician, and other authorized parties, are updated with the patient’s attendance, participation, and progression. Discharge orders are given when the patient either regains full function or they reach their maximum functional abilities. 

For more information on Work Conditioning and Work Hardening programs please connect with Tenielle at Navisess.

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