Work Hardening Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between physical therapy services previously received, and Work Hardening services?

Work Hardening is a program designed to address your specific return to work needs. In individual therapy, you may have received one-on-one treatment directed to the area of injury. This has been effective in addressing your needs related to your injury, but may not have been enough to prepare you for your job demands at work. 

Work Hardening bridges the gap between initial acute injury management and return to work. We use a team approach to treatment and you may work with an occupational therapist, physical therapist, vocational counselor/case manager and rehabilitation counselor. This comprehensive program has three major components:

  1. Job Simulation - activities used to recreate the physical demands of your tasks at work;
  2. Fitness/Conditioning - combination of a fitness/aerobic equipment routine and individual exercises to improve your overall conditioning and endurance for work; and
  3. Education - to help you understand your injury, the risk factors that contributed to your injury and ways to avoid a re-injury. Injured workers participate in the program four hours per day and five days per week. Their average stay in the program is three to four weeks.

Q: Why is Work Hardening such a time-intensive program?

The purpose of Work Hardening is to restore your functional abilities (e.g., lifting, carrying, sitting, standing, walking, pushing, pulling, etc.) for a full work day. In Work Hardening, we are focusing on your endurance for these activities, as well as on progressing you to your maximum ability in each area. 

Our team will provide your physician with recommendations for your return to work and we will need to comment on your ability to perform your job for a full day. We will also recommend any restrictions or accommodations that may be required to enable you to return to work safely.

Q: Why do I need to work with a team of therapists in Work Hardening?

Your injury in relation to your job and the impact that it has had on your life has become more complicated the longer you have been away from work. Our team will address your work issues from a physical perspective, but also assist you in managing other areas affecting your work status. For example, our rehabilitation counselor may work with you to teach you ways to manage your pain symptoms through techniques such as biofeedback, relaxation and stress management training. 

Our vocational counselor will serve as your case manager and keep all parties informed of your progress and needs by coordinating return to work services with your employer, carrier, doctor and rehab nurse if one was assigned to you. This level of communication is very important in worker's compensation cases. Our therapists will not only design effective exercise programs to increase your strength and abilities, but will also provide education in correct body mechanics and techniques for preventing future injuries.