Reach optimum physical performance through Work Hardening Therapy

Work hardening is a form of physical therapy that focuses on strengthening certain body parts enabling you to reach your maximum physical capacity to facilitate movement and work efficiency. Work hardening program’s goal is to enhance a body part that has already been conditioned due to an injury or illness. A work-hardening program is the last part of your physical therapy treatment right before returning to work. It is a technique that focuses on rehabilitation by improving your physical form that reduces the risk of a work injury.

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Work hardening is a specialized rehabilitation program designed to restore complete functionality and mobility post-injury. It consists of manual physical therapy, occupational therapy counseling, and other rehabilitative practices. The goal of work hardening is to improve overall physical fitness by providing strength, endurance, and coordination to perform a particular work activity.

Work Hardening vs Work Conditioning

Work conditioning and work hardening are used in combination as a rehabilitative program designed to provide therapeutic intervention in patients ready to resume work. Work rehabilitation programs are often used for post-traditional physical conditioning achieved by physical therapy practices. It aids patients to regain full range of motion and facilitate mobility without dependence or risk of injury.

Work conditioning is a rigorous conditioning program designed to enhance and strengthen a patient’s physical, neurological and musculoskeletal functions. It helps in increasing the recovery time and enhancing mobility, power, endurance, and other functional skills. The goal of work conditioning is to restore the patient’s ability to function independently while reducing the risk of new or worsened injury.

Work hardening is an intensive, goal-related strengthening treatment program specifically designed to increase the overall capability of the patient to restore their physical capacity in order to carry out their work efficiently. It is an individualized customizable structured program that helps patients return to their pre-injury state in a safe and timely manner. It uses a team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and vocational specialists. Professions that require excessive and strenuous physical activity such as police officials, firefighters, correction officers, etc form the major crux of the patient list. Work hardening treatments help patients regain the mental, biochemical and physical ability to return to work without fear of injury and psychosomatic negative effects that can be caused after a trauma post-injury.

Mechanism of Work Hardening Therapy 

Work hardening program is implemented in conjunction with other manual physical therapy programs to aid in the simulation of primary job functions. For instance, in case of a back injury from lifting heavy objects, the patient is taught the proper technique and posture maintenance while carrying heavy objects in the future. You would be asked to practice certain core strengthening exercises in order to make sure you are in the optimum physical shape to carry out the required task and reduce the risk of injury. Work hardening programs may be conducted in a group setting or independently by your physiotherapist.  Work hardening treatment is an ideal way that guarantees smooth transitioning back to work post an injury or illness and pain management. It instills confidence and helps in fear management in patients that have undergone trauma caused due to a work injury.

Work rehabilitation programs are usually 4 to 8-week rehabilitative programs designed to cater to your specific needs while work conditioning sessions vary from 1-3 hours for 2-3 days a week, work hardening programs are 2-4 hours long and are carried out 3-5 days per week. The time and length can be customized according to your schedule and convenience.

Benefits of Work Hardening

Work hardening is an individualized rehabilitation program that entails your physiotherapist designing a personalized treatment plan and tasks depending on skills required for you to successfully resume work. It depends on the severity and nature of your condition, medical history, the physical requirements of your job, and your healing speed. The work hardening program is goal-oriented and focuses on exercises and activities that can train and strengthen your body to effectively carry out your regular tasks without the risk of injury at work.

Work hardening programs focus on improving balance and posture, aiding flexibility and agility of joints and muscles, and facilitating patient’s strength and mobility. They can help improve productivity, physical tolerance, work culture and instill safe practices in the work environment. Work hardening makes one confident and enables one to lead a life free from pain or injury.

The goals of work rehabilitation are to maximize functionality post an injury or illness aiding in successful patient rehabilitation. It helps facilitate a safe and timely return to work and helps prevent future injury or illness. Work rehabilitation assists patients in retaining or resuming their work, enhance confidence, and prevents the negative psychological effects of unemployment. It decreases stiffness and pain and enhances muscle strength and endurance. Work hardening improves the overall quality of life and enables one to lead a pain-free confident life.

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Article Author Details

Eli Bryant