Terapia Ocupacional Terapia Ocupacional

Get Back to the Job of Living With Occupational Therapy

By Christina Hall
For HealthSouth

April 21, 2000 -- "A well-planned strategy for early return to work can reduce compensation and disability costs by 30% to 50% a year," says occupational therapist Ellen Oakes, a HealthSouth area ergonomic coordinator based in Denver. "Finding transitional and permanent solutions to injury and disability is important for employers and workers alike. HealthSouth's Structural Return-to-Work Program identifies a number of legitimate transitional jobs that injured workers can perform during rehabilitation."

April is National Occupational Therapy Month, devoted to "skills for the job of living", according to the American Occupational Therapy Association. "Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are the most serious occupational health hazard facing our nation because they can end careers prematurely and destroy lives along with livelihoods," Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman wrote in a recent statement. "But they can be prevented."

Innovative Analysis

HealthSouth has designed an innovative job analysis program that breaks down each job task into essential and nonessential functions. Establishing the critical requirements of worker and employer, HealthSouth ergonomic consultants identify the physical demands of a particular task and provide recommendations to improve work practices, as well as workstation ergonomics.

Common workplace injuries include: 

  • Repetitive motion injuries 
  • Tendinitis 
  • Bursitis 
  • Strains and sprains 
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) 
  • Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis)
"These injuries occur when the demands of an individual's activities at home, during sports, or at work exceed their body's ability to heal," Oakes tells WebMD. "Conditions prone to increase discomfort are poor postures of the spine, arms, and hands; repetitive movements; forceful pressure, such as pushing a lever; static movements such as working with the arms overhead for long periods of time; compression of muscles, bones, or nerves; working in a cold environment; excessive vibration, poor gripping postures, and bright sun or glare." HealthSouth has designed a successful on-site stretching program to help employees reduce their risk of developing these injuries.

Diagnosing the damage is just the first step, Oakes says. "A detailed job analysis may suggest modifications in the workplace to decrease worker injury risk and enhance productivity. HealthSouth ergonomic consultants can also make recommendations to help employees perform their own tasks efficiently and safely to prevent further injury."

© 2000 Healtheon/WebMD. All rights reserved.