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Appointment Length: 1 - 4 hours

Return to Work Programs

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Work conditioning and work hardening exercise programs are designed to help clients regain enough strength & function to return to work. Return to Work Programs are ideal for patients that have already progressed through their physical therapy treatments but still 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.

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, to prevent the recurrence of the same injury, and to decrease fear of returning to work.

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 can benefit from work hardening & work conditioning programs?

New employees who may not match “fit for hire” outlines.Individuals looking to improve their functional ability for daily demands.Any labor-intensive 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 each client’s specific injury/weakness and can be tailored to what the treating physician prescribes. The time and length of the sessions can usually be tailored around the patient’s work schedule.

Functional Baselines

At 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:

1. Determine the patient’s current physical activeness (sedentary, light, medium, or heavy).

2. Determine the patient’s aerobic capacity (poor, fair, average, good, or excellent).

3. Determine the patient’s grip strength.

4. Determine the patient’s mobility, core, and joint-specific strengths in relation to their injury.

After the functional baseline is determined, an individualized program will be designed to increase the patient’s current physical abilities. This will be done with medium to high intensity cardiovascular and strengthening exercises as well as stretching and mobility conditioning specifically tailored to the tasks the patient is required to perform at their job.

The referring physician, and any other authorized parties, will be given periodic progress updates which will document 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.

The Navisess team can help you get back to working well without fear of injury.

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