Three Key Benefits of Active Injury Care

By Haley Bass | 09/29/2017

When an employee gets injured at work, whether due to a single accident or years of repetitive strain, they need a treatment plan that will get them back on their feet quickly. A general physician may prescribe bed rest and painkillers, but that can cause bigger issues down the road. A physician trained in occupational medicine knows that an active treatment plan involving physical therapy helps injured workers heal faster with long-term benefits.

Unsure about the positive impact of physical therapy? Here are three of the top benefits of using physical therapy in an injury care plan.

Faster Return-to-Work

The longer an injured employee stays away from work, the less likely they are to return. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 50% chance an employee will return to work after three months away, and that chance decreases to 20% at six months and 1% at a year. Helping an employee return to work quickly after an injury is critical to their full recovery.

Physical therapy helps the patient transition back to full function much faster than bedrest. Active, function-based exercises keep the patient’s body strong and flexible during recovery, while minimizing pain, swelling, and stiffness. A physical therapist works with an employer to understand the functions of the patient’s job, then tailors the treatment plan to that patient’s needs. With job functions in mind, the physical therapist can build a transitional return-to-work plan to safely get the injured employee back to full function.

Avoid Unnecessary Costs

Work injuries are expensive. From medical bills to lost productivity, workplace injuries are costing employers nearly $60 billion a year. Physical therapy can help cut those costs. Not only can you avoid hiring a replacement for your injured worker thanks to a speedy return-to-work, you can also avoid paying for unnecessary tests and medications.

In a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, physicians found that patients who utilized physical therapy for treatment lowered their overall health care costs by reducing the need for:

  • Advanced imaging
  • Additional physician visits
  • Surgery
  • Opioid medications

Physical therapy helps reduce pain and the need for pain medication. Especially now, with a national opioid crisis, employers should rely on treatment plans that help patients avoid addictive painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends physical therapy over opioids in their guidelines for treating chronic pain.

Continuum of Care

The best-case scenario for injury care is when your occupational medicine provider offers medical care and physical therapy under the same roof. This continuum of care speeds up the recovery process by adding convenience and a more comprehensive treatment plan for the injured worker.

Because the physician and physical therapist work in the same center, they can work closely together to develop an effective treatment plan. Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that when patients can get physical therapy at an occupational medicine center, there’s a 45% decrease in the average number of therapy visits as compared to the national benchmark.

By sharing the same building patients can often begin their physical therapy treatment immediately after the medical evaluation, leading to even better results. In one study based on employees who received same-day access to physical therapy, 94% of patients were returned to work on the day they saw the therapist or the day after.

There’s enough to worry about with a work injury without adding prolonged and expensive treatment. With integrated and comprehensive physical therapy, employers can anticipate a faster return-to-work that results in a fuller recovery and a reduced medical bill. Talk to a Concentra work health expert to learn more about the benefits of physical therapy.