Accidents happen all the times in the workplace. The most frequently seen work related injuries are falls, overexertion, repetitive trauma, bodily reaction (slip or trip but caught yourself without falling), and highway accident (motor vehicle accident). Some of the above injuries vary from serious to not so serious.

Moreover, fatigue, stress, slips and trips are the frequent causes of work related injuries. Fatigue, either physical or mental exhaustion, results in poor judgement and slow reflex causing injury. Slips due to wet floor or poor footwear can also add to the insult. Trips on extension cord, and poorly lit hallway are also responsible for work related injuries.

Once injury happens at work, injury report should be filed in order to begin the process of rehabilitation and returning to work. The best new evidence to return to work faster and healthier is early intervention. Zigenfus, in his 2000 study, showed that injured workers who participated in an early therapy intervention program had more favorable outcome, had fewer physician visits, fewer restricted workdays, fewer days away from work, and shorter case duration.

After initial injury, the body reacts by causing swelling, pain and guarding. These reactions delay healing. Work muscle strength, flexibility and muscle ability to react to the demands place on them diminish at a fast rate. Within 24 hours of injury, muscle and nerve function begin to change. The body starts to create abnormal movement and compensates to be able to function. The body has to maintain certain ability of functional movement to survive. Hence, it creates abnormal forces on the joint and other parts of the body. Furthermore, the body starts to lose the endurance and strength it needs to perform the job tasks. This makes returning to work difficult. Hence, early intervention helps with maintaining strength, flexibility and endurance while rehabilitating the injured part.

In early intervention, as the injured part is being treated to manage swelling, spasm, pain and weakness which delay healing, the other parts of the body are exercising to prevent deconditioning which helps return to work faster, at the same time prevent re-injury. As the healthy parts of the body are moving, it helps the injured part heals faster via oxygen delivery, reduce swelling, reduce spasm, reduce inflammation and reduce pain.

by Raj Issuree, MPT

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Zegenfus G, Yin J et al. Effectiveness of early physical therapy in the treatment of acute low back musculoskeletal disorders. J Occup & Environ Med 2000; 42(1): 35-9