Life may seem difficult, discouraging, and painful after you suffer a work-related injury and cannot work. Fortunately, workers’ compensation is there while you heal from your injuries and get well.
Part of your recovery may include work conditioning or work hardening, a rehabilitation program that helps speed your return to work. Work conditioning treatment aims to restore you to your pre-injury health with a focus on the physical components your job requires like strength, coordination, flexibility, or endurance.
Of course, your ability to return to work as safely and quickly as possible relies heavily on you, the patient. Here’s how to get the most out of work conditioning so you can begin work once more.
Start Treatment as Soon as Possible
Often an injury needs time to heal before you can begin physical therapy. The severity of an injury dictates when you should start treatment, but some workers are tempted to put off their first visit as long as possible, or until they are forced to go.
Instead of waiting until you think your injury is ready, it’s better to start your work conditioning program as soon your doctor gives you green light. Research shows the longer you’re off work due to pain, the greater the risk you never return to work at all. For example, missing 6 weeks of work carries a 40 percent chance of being out of work one year later.
Missing work also puts you at a greater risk for disability and chronic pain. These conditions increase the difficulty of ever returning to work again. The sooner you start treatment, the better you will feel and the greater your chance of returning to work.
Don’t Miss or Skip Sessions
The main objective of work conditioning is to restore your function and physical capacity in order to return to work quickly and safely. Most treatment programs rely on treatment regularity as a factor to be successful. Each daily session can last up to four hours for as long as six weeks.
When you skip a session because you’re tired or you failed to make the session a priority, you jeopardize the likelihood you can get back to work. At the very least you push back your goal dates that clear you for work. You also lengthen the time before you can earn paychecks and become financially independent once more.
Eat Healthy Meals
Work conditioning sessions are made up of cardio and strength training exercises designed to help you meet the physical demands of your job. As with any exercise program, the way you eat makes an impact on your success. During your weeks at treatment and after you return to work, a healthy diet serves an important purpose.
Before you attend a session, the food you eat has to sustain your energy, hydrate you, and speed your recovery. Pick foods with healthy carbohydrates like legumes, whole grain cereal and pasta, fruits and vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and brown rice. Wait until after your session to eat protein as it draws blood away from your muscles that are in need of oxygen and energy.
After your session your food should help refuel your body. Carbohydrates are great at refueling you because your muscles store them as energy. Protein stores energy too but is needed to grow and rebuild muscle. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Your therapist should discuss the details of your training and exercise. Make sure you ask questions during every session, such as when you don’t understand the purpose of an exercise. Asking questions throughout your work conditioning makes you more likely to be positively engaged in your progress. You are also more likely to have greater input when you set important goals.
Asking questions should also be a part of your initial consultation for work conditioning. La Clinica, S.C., offers consultations for work conditioning and other treatment options. Call us and ask how we can help you get back to work after an injury.