Physical therapy is a medical service that uses therapeutic exercise to help a person regain or improve his or her normal body movements. So when an employee is injured on the job and that injury results in damage to the musculoskeletal parts of the body, it’s not uncommon for the treating physician to send the employee to a physical therapist.
Treating physicians usually have a working relationship with local physical therapists. The treating physician can often recommend a physical therapist who can best handle the employee’s type of injury. The physician usually prescribes the amount of physical therapy treatments needed. The therapy is often conducted in an out-patient setting.
Workers’ comp claims often involve injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints. These types of injuries can often be handled by a physical therapist. There are physical therapists that also specialize in skin problems resulting from burns or wounds, nerve injuries, as well as other breathing and lung problems. The physical therapist is focused on helping the employee to regain prior functioning levels. The therapy may also help relieve pain associated with the injured body part.
At the first visit, the physical therapist will review the details of the injury, how much care has been prescribed, and will then determine a treatment plan. The treatment plan often includes improving flexibility, endurance, strength, coordination, and balance. The first step in physical therapy will usually be to reduce swelling, stiffness, or pain. It can include water hydrotherapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and heat or cold packs. Exercises may include stretching, walking, and weight lifting. Some exercises may be done at home.
The total treatment plan will include educating the employee how to avoid injury again as well as injury caused by repetitive motion. At the end of the treatment period, the employee returns to the treating physician for progress in recovery and re-evaluation.
Physical therapy is much less expensive than surgery and benefits employees in most cases.