Workplace wellness is an emerging concept given the increasing number of chronic health problems that arise from working long hours in a physically and mentally stressful job. One aspect of a regular desk job is long hours in front of a computer in a posture that is probably not the most ergonomic. Furthermore, repetitive strain injuries can occur from the use of the computer keyboard as well. Recent evidence suggests the benefits of physical rehabilitation in combination with ergonomic improvements in the work place in reducing work related upper limb disorders (1).

Workplace wellness also relates to simple things such as the position of the desk and the chair that a person sits on. Daily computer users have reported a high incidence of cervical pain, along with thoracic and lumbar pain. A higher placement of the keyboard is associated with thoracic back pain (2). Carpal tunnel syndrome has also been a well-recognized consequence of constant computer use (3).

It’s clear that workplace factors can have an impact on the physical health of a patient. Below, we will take a brief look at the role of physical therapists in workplace wellness and the WorkSTAR Program.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists are not just professionals who offer exercises – they are also involved in helping patients maintain appropriate posture in order to prevent injury. Physical Therapists can offer Ergonomic Assessments, which are, Creating a “best fit” between worker, task and environment. A Certified Ergonomic  Assessment Specialist identifies positive aspects as well as risk factors at a specific workstation. Recommendations are provided for modifications to reduce risk of cumulative trauma or injury. Simple measures such as performing exercises when sat for long hours can play an important role in the maintenance of flexibility and range of movement. Using an ergonomically designed chair that maintains normal spinal curvature will be recommended.

In a Work Conditioning program a Physical Therapist will recondition the employee who has suffered workplace injury and assist them in returning to the workplace. They will recondition the employee using a systematic program of gradually progressive work-related activities performed in a supervised environment with proper body mechanics, and posture. This prepares for return-to-work, enhancing physical endurance and self-confidence. Additional therapies such as TENS and interferential current therapy have also been used in the management of conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The latter in particular has shown significant benefit, and recent papers have clarified it as a safe treatment (4). Physical therapists can offer this treatment to patients depending on their clinical requirement.

Work Hardening may be more appropriate than work condition if the patient has suffered an injury in the work place and is suffering from more than physical injuries. Often times psychological barriers prevent the employee from returning to work. Work Hardening uses the core aspects of work conditioning but in a team approach to help the employee recover from physical and psychological pain.

The interdisciplinary team includes:

  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physiatrist (Doctor of Physical Medicine)
  • Neuropsychologist

Workplace wellness is vital to living a health life. Physical Therapists and programs such as WorkSTAR can help achieve work place wellness at the highest levels.

 

 

  1. Povlsen, Bo. “Physical rehabilitation with ergonomic intervention of currently working keyboard operators with nonspecific/type II work-related upper limb disorder: A prospective study.” Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation93.1 (2012): 78-81.
  2. Kanchanomai, Siriluck, et al. “Prevalence of and factors associated with musculoskeletal symptoms in the spine attributed to computer use in undergraduate students.” Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation 43.4 (2012): 497-506.
  3. Phillip E, Wright II. Carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar tunnel syndromes and stenosing tenosynovitis. In: Canale ST, editor. Campbell’s operative orthopaedics. 9th ed. St. Louis, MO, USA: Mosby; 1998. p. 3685–701.
  4. Koca, Irfan, et al. “Assessment of the effectiveness of interferential current therapy and TENS in the management of carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized controlled study.” Rheumatology international (2014): 1-7.