Every job carries with it some level of physical risk. Workplace injuries can happen; it doesn’t matter if you work in construction or have a nine-to-five desk job.
Nobody wants to get hurt, even more so while at work. On-the-job orthopedic injuries can be very stressful, but knowing what to do and expect during the recovery process can help you manage the situation better.
Common Causes of Orthopedic Injuries in the Workplace
Before we discuss treatment and recovery, let us first take a look at some of the most common causes of work-related orthopedic injuries:
Overextension is the most common of all workplace injuries. This typically occurs when you push your body past its physical limits.
Activities that often cause overextension injuries are:
Repetitive Motions can cause strains on the muscles and tendons. These injuries tend to be less obvious in their earlier stages, but tend to get worse and more painful over time.
Falls can lead to anything from a sprained ankle to a concussion. It’s one of the most dangerous workplace accidents because you never know the extent of damage or injury it can cause.
Professions with high fall risks include:
- Window cleaners
- Construction workers
- Cleaning service professionals
Reaction Injuries are often caused by sudden reactions or movements such as when sitting, bending, or reaching. These injuries may seem nothing at first but can become worse if ignored.
Treatment for On-the Job Orthopedic Injuries
There are several types of treatments that you can apply on workplace orthopedic injuries, depending on their severity.
The RICE treatment involves four steps:
- Rest – Stopping activity right away to take pressure off the injure body part.
- Ice – Applying a bag of ice to the affected area.
- Compression – Compressing or wrapping the injury to reduce swelling.
- Elevation – Elevating the injury at heart level to allow better blood flow through the injured area.
You need to remember, though, that RICE is a first aid treatment that is best used right after sustaining the injury. It is not meant to be used indefinitely. If the injury does not get better after the first 48 hours of RICE treatment, it’s best to seek professional medical attention.
Telemedicine is a type of remote injury care that uses telecommunication technologies and devices to handle on-the-job orthopedic injuries, particularly those that don’t warrant a trip to the hospital.
When an employee is injured at work, he or she can consult with a clinical provider via video conference instead of getting sent to urgent care. Most minor orthopedic injuries can be treated via telemedicine.
Orthopedic rehabilitation, or what’s commonly referred to as “rehab,” is a doctor-supervised program designed to help people form orthopedic musculoskeletal injuries and trauma. It is also often recommended as post-surgery recovery treatment for orthopedic injuries.
Orthopedic Rehabilitation Programs may include:
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Sports Therapy
More severe orthopedic injuries may require surgery, but this is often the last resort, after all other treatment options have been exhausted.
Recovering from Workplace Accidents and Orthopedic Injuries
Regardless of how you sustained an orthopedic injury at work, the lack of mobility and loss of movement that follows can be difficult to deal with.
These recovery tips can help you minimize your downtime and return to full productivity as soon as possible.
It’s very important for you to try to stay as active as you can following a workplace orthopedic injury. While you may not be able to move and function the way you used to, you should get off the couch.
There are actually plenty of activities that you can do while recovering, starting with exercising your unaffected muscle groups. Examples of exercises that can help you reclaim your functionality, include:
Before getting into any activities, though, be sure to consult with your doctor and care team.
But Don’t Overdo It
Keeping yourself active during the recovery process will help you build muscle strength and regain your mobility quicker, but be careful not to overdo it. It’s also important that you don’t do too much too soon to prevent reinjury.
When consulting with your care team about activities that you can and cannot do, always be specific. Ask them what chores, movements, or exercises you’re allowed to do and to what extent.
You can gradually increase your activity level as you recover more, but don’t forget to check in with your care team regularly to make sure that what you’re doing is safe and appropriate.
Follow Doctor’s Orders
Doctors do know best, and they only want to help you recover faster. So, if your doctor tells you to rest or refrain from performing certain activities, it’s in your best interest to listen and follow his or her instructions to a T.
Your body needs time to heal. Going back to normal activity sooner, against your doctor’s recommendations, can result in serious setbacks in your recovery, and may even make your injury worse than it already was.
Nurture Physical and Mental Health
Recovering from an orthopedic injury can be frustrating and depressing, especially when your recovery is taking longer than expected or you run into complications that delay your healing. The recovery process doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s very important that you try to keep a positive outlook during this difficult time.
Also, despite the obvious drop in physical activity following an on-the-job injury, you should still eat well and healthy. The healing process burns plenty of calories, so eat enough lean protein and foods rich in fiber. Restricting your food intake at this time can be detrimental to your health.
Get Customized Rehabilitation
The recovery process of someone who sprained an ankle and works at a construction site is going to look very different from that of an office employee with a desk job with the same injury. Though their injuries are similar, the nature of their responsibilities and what it takes for them to get back to work are not.
That being said, it’s crucial for anybody who has suffered from a workplace injury to have a treatment and rehabilitation plan that is designed to meet their individual needs and daily activities.
Rehabilitation is not one-size-fits-all. A customized rehab program will help you regain the necessary strength and functionalities according to the physical requirements of your job.
Injuries can be a real drag, even more so when you have to undergo surgery. However, if you follow the tips listed above and focus on doing things that are good for your recovery, you should be able to get back to work and tackle life at full speed again in no time!
About Dr. Kaelin
Dr. Charles R. Kaelin received his medical degree from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and completed his orthopaedic training at Orlando Regional Center in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Kaelin also received training in Sports Medicine at Alabama Sports Medicine with Dr. Lemak, specializing in sports medicine and workmans compensation injuries. He has been a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) since 1990. He is a charter member of the International Cartilage Research Society, Founding member of the AAOS Education Enhancement Fund (AAOS) and past editorial board member for the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal.
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