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The Role of Occupational Therapists in Workers’ Compensation Rehabilitation

July 1, 2024

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Getting hurt at work can change your life in an instant. Not only are you suddenly in severe pain, but you will now have medical bills to pay. You may even worry about when or if you can return to work.

Workers' compensation benefits help injured workers solve these problems. Rehabilitation is an important part of this process, and occupational therapists play a big role in helping injured workers get back on their feet.

What Do Occupational Therapists Do?

Occupational therapists are healthcare professionals who help people recover from injuries and get back to their daily activities, including work. If you were hurt at work, occupational therapists have the skills and knowledge to help you regain the physical and mental capacity needed for your job and everyday life.

How Do Occupational Therapists Help People Receiving Workers’ Compensation?

Occupational therapists handle many aspects of injured workers’ return to work, including:

Assessment and Planning

An occupational therapist will assess your physical and mental capabilities, including your understanding of the nature of your injury, the demands of your job, and your overall health.

Based on this assessment, the therapist will develop a customized rehabilitation plan for you. This plan focuses on improving your ability to perform specific job tasks while considering your physical limitations and any pain you may be experiencing.

Therapeutic Interventions

An occupational therapist will guide you through exercises that improve strength, flexibility, and endurance. These exercises are tailored to your job requirements to directly benefit you when you return to work.

Workplace Modifications

Your therapist will assess your job environment and suggest modifications to prevent further injury and enhance productivity. This can include adjusting the height of your work surface, recommending a supportive chair, or suggesting tools that reduce strain.

Your occupational therapist may even visit your workplace to observe you or other workers performing similar jobs and offer advice or create a suitable return plan. 

Adaptive Strategies

If you can no longer perform your previous job duties because of your injury or disability, your occupational therapist can help you learn new skills or adapt existing ones to new job roles. They might recommend and train you to use assistive devices such as braces or ergonomic tools to make job tasks easier and safer.

Psychological and Emotional Support

An injury can be mentally and emotionally challenging. Your occupational therapist can provide support to help you cope with the stress, anxiety, and depression that may accompany your physical recovery. Encouragement and positive reinforcement can help you build confidence in returning to work.

What Types of Exercises Do Occupational Therapists Recommend for Injured Workers?

Occupational therapists use many exercises and routines to help injured workers regain strength, mobility, and function. These routines address each worker's specific needs while considering the type of injury they suffered and the demands of their job. 

Here are some common types of exercises and routines that occupational therapists might include in a rehabilitation program:

Strengthening Exercises

  • Resistance Training: This involves using weights, resistance bands, or body weight to strengthen muscles.
  • Isometric Exercises: These exercises require contracting muscles without moving the joint, which can be useful for maintaining strength when movement is painful.
  • Functional Strength Training: Often performed using free weights and machines, these exercises mimic job-specific tasks to build the strength needed for work activities.

Flexibility and Stretching Exercises

  • Static Stretching: This type of stretching requires holding a stretch for a period to improve flexibility in muscles and joints.
  • Dynamic Stretching: Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of the body through a range of motion to improve flexibility and prepare for more intense activities.
  • Job-Specific Stretching: These tailored stretches improve flexibility in muscles and joints used in the worker’s specific job tasks.

Endurance Training

  • Cardiovascular Exercises: Beneficial cardiovascular exercises for injured workers should be low impact and include walking, cycling, or swimming to improve overall cardiovascular health and stamina.
  • Interval Training: Workers with less serious injuries or who are further along in their recoveries can benefit from internal training, which involves alternating periods of intense activity with rest periods to build endurance and improve recovery times.

Balance and Coordination Exercises

  • Balance Training: This training involves improving workers’ balance by standing on one leg, using balance boards, or walking on uneven surfaces to improve stability.
  • Coordination Drills: These drills enhance coordination and involve exercises that enhance hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and the ability to perform complex movements.

Pain Management Techniques

  • Relaxation Exercises: These techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery to reduce stress and manage pain.
  • Temperature and Electrical Stimulation: Applying various amounts of heat, cold, or electrical stimulation can help many people with chronic or severe pain find enough relief to return to work and everyday activities.

Ergonomic Training

  • Posture and Body Mechanics: Occupational therapists teach injured workers proper posture and body mechanics to prevent further injury and ensure safe movement during work tasks.
  • Adaptive Techniques: Injured workers can benefit from learning new ways to perform tasks that reduce their risk of strain and injury.

Our Ohio Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Want to Help

No one should have to go it alone after an on-the-job injury. You deserve a trusted legal advocate during the workers’ compensation process, and an experienced professional helping to create a rehabilitation program to help you return to work.

The Ohio workers’ compensation attorneys at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy have helped countless injured Ohioans get the benefits they’re owed after work-related injuries and illnesses. Contact us anytime for a free consultation to learn how we can put our experience to work for you and your loved ones.

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