Work Conditioning and Work Hardening
Patients enter the Work Conditioning and Work Hardening phase of work injury care after they are discharged from Physical Therapy. Typically, they should have minimal to no pain and are well into the restorative phase of their healing. Work Hardening and Work Conditioning is a program to strengthen the worker’s endurance and stamina in simulated job tasks. These job tasks are well-linked to the specific demands of their jobs, so exercises should reflect accurate frequency and physical loads to mimic that of their typical duties.
Light duty or being off work can adversely affect the worker’s ability to return to full duties and full demands of their jobs. Current research shows that if a worker has taken 6 weeks off of work, he/she has a 10-40% chance of not returning to work for the rest of the year. Research also shows that at 6 month rehab mark, there is a 50% chance the worker will not return to work. Work Hardening and Work Conditioning is needed in order to reduce this loss of productivity.
Following are indications for Work Hardening:
- When a worker has suffered a work-related injury
- When the worker has to be off work or subjected to modified duty restrictions
- When the worker cannot perform essential job duties
- When physically demanding job is involved
- When the worker has limited strength and endurance
- When there is a plateau in physical therapy
Work Hardening usually involves a long stint of physical activities and exercises, and typical sessions last for 3.5 hours or more a day. Workers come in 4-5 days a week to build strength and endurance and gradually progressed in their capacities. We typically see each Work Conditioning patient for an average of 4-6 weeks.
A Work Conditioning session at our clinic will involve general exercises focused on strengthening necessary muscle groups for completion of their job tasks. The worker will perform daily conditioning such as warm ups, resistance exercises and functional activities such as squats, lifts, carries, pushing and pulling and walking.
Goals for Work Conditioning and Work Hardening is to return the worker to prior levels of function for all job-essential activities and work duties. It is also an opportunity where both the patient and the employer can learn strategies to reduce injury on the job.
It is our responsibility for the welfare of our patients to maintain open and constant communication to injured workers’ physician and case manager so everyone is updated on status and prognosis for return to work. We are legally obligated to also communicate all pertinent information on attendance and participation. It is important to note that we do not communicate any health-related information to workers’ employers.
If you would like to learn more or schedule an appointment, give Stride Strong a call at 503-208-6278.
U.S Department of Labor, Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Fourth Edition Revised, 1991
Occupational Health Guidelines: Work Conditioning and Work Hardening Programs, Amended BOD 03-00- 25-62; BOD 03-99-16-49; BOD 11-94-33-109; Initial BOD 11-92-29-134] [Guideline]
Work Hardening: Occupational Therapy in Industrial Rehabilitation, Leonard Matheson, Linda Dempster Ogden, Kris Violette and Karen Shultz. 1985.
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