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Preventing and Treating Work-Related Injuries with Physical Therapy


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Any personal injury, illness, or sometimes passing you experience due to accidents while at work is called work-related injury. Occupational injuries could be fatal or non-fatal. Anglo American, a multinational mining company in Johannesburg, London, reported three fatal injuries in 2023. Due to work-related injuries in Great Britain in the year 2022-23, about 35.2 M working days were lost, and in the year 2021, it was 36.8 M. In the UK, from 2016-17 to 2018-19, the overall working days lost in health and social care centers was 4.6 M due to occupational injuries and illness. About 58% of public and private U.S. companies are offering one wellness program to help workers fight smoking, high weight, and stress in 2021.

Safety should always be precious for employers. Healthy the employer, more productivity is yours. Physical Therapists develop injury prevention programs according to their work. These programs include stretching exercises, strengthening routines, and balance training to reduce occupational injuries. Also, they provide immediate treatments to employees, thus ensuring a smoother recovery process. Physical therapists also provide educational sessions on proper lifting techniques, ergonomics, and the importance of regular exercise to help in injury prevention at workplaces. 

Understanding Work-Related Injuries

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Types of Work-Related Injuries

The following kinds of injuries once can dealt with at their working station:

  • Slips & Falls
  • Falls from Heights
  • Strains
  • Repetitive Use Injuries
  • Cuts
  • Collisions and Crashes
  • Struck by Moving Objects
  • Struck by Stationary Objects
  • Injuries Due to Overexertion
  • Repetitive Motion Injuries
  • Entrapment in Equipment
  • Electrocution
  • Vehicle Accidents
  • Workplace Violence
  • Overexertion and muscle strains
  • Crashes or collisions
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments
  • Fire and explosions
  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals

Risk Factors

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Risks involved in occupational injuries are:

  • Awkward postures, Cold temperatures, Contact stress, Force, Repetition, Static postures, Vibration
  • Exerting considerable force to complete a motion (forceful exertions)
  • Doing the same motions over and over again (repetitive motions)
  • Performing motions constantly without short pauses or breaks in between (inadequate recovery time)
  • Awkward postures, static postures, contact stress, vibration
  • Performing tasks that involve long reaches
  • Working surfaces are too high or too low
  • Maintaining the same work positions or posture for a long period
  • Sitting for a long time
  • Using hand and power tools
  • Using hands or body as a clamp to hold objects while performing tasks
  • Gloves are too large, too small, or too bulky
  • Manual handling (lifting/lowering, pushing/pulling and carrying)
  • Objects or people are heavy (lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying)
  • Horizontal reach is long (Distance of hands from the body to grasp the object to be handled)
  • Vertical reach is below the knees or above the shoulders (Distance of hands above the ground when the object is grasped or released)
  • Objects or people are moved a significant distance (pushing, pulling, and carrying)
  • Bending or twisting during manual handling
  • Floor surfaces are uneven, slippery, or sloped

Physical Therapy for Prevention

Ergonomic Assessments

Assessment of the working atmosphere of employees to check whether it fits for use or not is called an ergonomic assessment. Physical therapists usually conduct these assessments because they of course are experts in kinesiology and have better knowledge on other stress causing factors.

Ergonomic assessments can reduce the risk of injuries at the workplace. And the benefits of it include:

  •  It reduces sick leaves
  •  It improves the self-confidence of staff by providing them with suitable tools for the job.
  •  It prevents musculoskeletal injuries
  •  It improves work efficiency by providing the correct equipment for the job
  • Temporary staff can cover the needs of employees on sick leave.

Ergonomic Assessment aims to assess the following things:

  • A desk area assessment is done to check if it provides enough room to work.
  •  Chairs are conditioned if they are adjustable and suitable for the employees.
  • Staff awareness about the workstation adjustment.
  • Working duties assessment includes assessing bending, lifting, and repetitive movements that employees do during their work.
  • Tools assessment if they are appropriate for kneeling pads, machinery, gloves, uniform, shoes and headset telephones etc.
  • Staff training to handle manuals.
  • Staff attitudes to different situations.

Recommendations by Physiotherapist:

The physiotherapist recommendations list provides you with the guidelines report after assessing the workstation. This report includes:

  • The list of any replacements, additions, or repairs to the apparatus necessary to recover the ergonomics.
  • Pieces of Advice for training the staff about machinery working.
  • Recommendations to reduce tedious task strain, manual handling courses, and techniques to improve their working positions.

Training and Education

Workstation injuries and diseases can be prevented by educating and providing training sessions to employees because proper education is required to work safely after understanding workplace hazards and proper training to identify and control the unique hazards. It does not matter how well a workstation is designed; problems may arise due to non-attentive behavior by the employees. One of them is body posture, which is when you stick to the same work without stretching your body in order to make it flexible for day-to-day work. Stretch exercises could be adopted for hands, neck, shoulders, back, sides, legs, etc. Some of these stretches that can be done during work are:

  • Varying the work tasks by getting involved in other tasks like moving around and changing body position, etc.
  • If your duty is screen-based, then look far away from the screen occasionally to focus your eyes.
  • Take advantage of rest breaks to relax muscle pains, eye strains, and stress by changing positions. Repeat stretch exercises for about 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Take some relaxing breaths.
  • Try to avoid jumping, pulling, or pushing disproportionately. Avoid pain-causing exercises.
  • If you are feeling discomfort with a stretch then stop it. Ask a Physiotherapist for the best suited one.

Physical Therapy for Treatment

Initial Assessment and Plan

When you are assessed by a physiotherapist as a result of an injury, he will assess your condition and will make a plan to treat your pain. For this, he can evaluate the following things:

  • Physiotherapists will review the medical history of the patient. It includes the injury history, previous medical history, surgeries and medication etc.
  • Physiotherapists will assess specific symptoms you feel, such as pain, stiffness, weakness, etc.
  • Physical therapists will examine your attitude, activities, muscle strength, stretching, stability, and organization, injured area, swelling and abnormalities etc.
  • Physical therapists will ask for Special tests depending on the kind of injury.
  • Your specific movements related to casual functions will be assessed to understand how the injury is affecting you.
  • Pain’s sharpness will be assessed to assign you specific therapies to recover.
  • If you are assigned diagnostic imaging like an x-ray, then PT will examine it to understand the injury type.
  • Now, the therapist will diagnose the injury on the basis of assessments he made by observing data.
  • After the problem is diagnosed, the Therapist will set a specific goal to recover you.
  • He will set a treatment plan consisting of therapies, exercises, and training for future incidents.
  • Your progress will be monitored to check your progress and to add new exercises to your plan.
  • Proper Education on body mechanics and ergonomics will be given to patients to prevent any further injuries.  

Therapeutic Interventions

Healing Interventions

The aim of these healing interventions is to reduce pain and improve functionality by endorsing retrieval.

  • Manual therapies may involve massaging, physical exercises to make joints workable and soft tissues manipulation. These therapies help to improve musculoskeletal issues.
  • Therapeutic exercises include stretching, balance training, functional movements, and tissue strengthening. These exercises are specifically designed to improve muscle strength, stretching, and normality of functions.
  • The use of modalities such as heat therapy (hot packs), ice therapy (cold packs), and electrical stimulation techniques (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or electrical muscle stimulation (EMS)) helps against pain, muscle function, and inflammation. All these techniques are specified according to the condition of the patient. 

Case Management and Return to Work

Developing a Return-to-Work Plan

Collaboration with employers and employees 

There should be strong collaboration between the employee and the employer; for this workstation, the compensation system should provide employees with workplace accommodations, modified duties, and other support necessary for employees to accommodate the workplace after injury.  

Gradual return-to-work programs

It is a moral duty to support injured employees in their work when they return back to work. Usually, it can be done by slowly increasing the workload on them day by day so that they can add it to their habit easily. It includes a decrease in work hours or tasks that employees were used to doing before injury.   

Monitoring Progress

Ongoing assessment

Injured employees should be assessed when they return to work to check out their working abilities. Also, assess their restriction plan assigned by the physiotherapist and avoid allocating them the work that crosses the barrier of restrictions. In short a lot of them do such work that ensures their safety too.  

Adjusting the treatment plan as needed

Injured people should be regularly monitored to assess their functional abilities and symptoms and stick to healthcare plans.

Check out the progress of the current treatment plan, if it is fulfilling the demands like reducing the pain, improving functionality and facilitating recovery.

If the current plan does not fulfill the needs, then physiotherapists should be concerned about alternative treatment plans. All the changes should be documented for care. 

Final Analysis

Work-related injuries can be prevented by ergonomic assessments, training, and education of employees done by physical therapists and medical facilities. After initial assessment, they made a plan for injured employees that may include manual therapies, therapeutic exercises, and modalities. Therapies will heal patients from their pain, muscle damage, and inflammation. California law states that if workers get occupational injuries, they must go by compensation benefits that cover salaries and medical expenses. The healthier you are, the more beneficial you are. Healthy body has a healthy mind. And your health is in your own hands. Be attentive, be protective. 


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