Occupational rehabilitation is the process of restoring function to injured workers so they can return to work. Rehabilitation professionals assess the needs of the person and the demands of the workplace in order to develop a plan of action to get the employee back to work that is suitable and safe for him as soon as possible. Depending on the type of injury, the individual may have to be trained in a new line of work.
A number of professionals are involved in the practice of occupational rehabilitation. Doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and massage therapists all have a different role in the rehabilitation of injured workers. Some of the problems treated by these clinicians are amputations, overuse injuries, back pain, neck pain, headaches, fractures, spinal cord injuries, and a host of other injuries.
Increased computer usage has resulted in a growing number of people seeking occupational rehabilitation because of common overuse conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, as well as problems brought on by poor sustained postures such as thoracic outlet syndrome or cervical headaches. Other common work injuries are lower back problems such as intervertebral disc bulges especially among those who work with heavy machinery. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists work together to improve the employee's posture (standing as well as sitting), the ergonomics of the work place and the way the individual performs his duties. Many problems like shoulder, back and neck pain, which were believed to be chronic, have been improved by making adjustments in workplace ergonomics and posture and through exercise programmes to restore correct muscle balance and joint alignment.
Active rehabilitation programmes in gym-based settings are a proactive way to rehabilitate injured workers. Once the initial injury has been treated by the physiotherapist in the clinic, many physiotherapists are now designing and supervising exercise programmes in local gymnasiums. These exercise programmes aim to accelerate the return of strength and function of the injured workers and prevent re-injury on their return to work, often with excellent results. Many patients finish the rehabilitation programmes stronger and fitter than before they were even injured and with a renewed passion for exercise!
By participating in active rehabilitation, injured workers can prevent loss of wages due to injuries and can enjoy a more productive working environment. Employers can preserve their bottom line by avoiding decreased man-hours and ongoing medical expenses. With a physiotherapy prescribed rehabilitation programme everyone benefits.