Three Misconceptions About Physical Therapy in Workers’ Comp
White Paper Summary
According to 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, musculoskeletal injuries accounted for 31 percent of occupational injures requiring days away from work, nearly 360,000 cases annually. Treating occupational related musculoskeletal injuries can be complex because the injury itself is generally diagnosed via a complex combination of thorough history, understanding the mechanism of injury, objective clinical exam findings, and intermittent use of diagnostic tests. The additional challenge is the range of signs and symptoms associated with common diagnoses and ICD-10 coding (International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition). For example, a diagnosis of an ankle sprain may range from a mild twist of an ankle to partially or fully torn ligaments of the ankle. The range of severity and acuity inherent in the diagnosis leads to challenges in understanding the complexity of the injury and, more importantly, the optimal management of the injury and functional restoration of the injured worker.
Due to the variability of symptoms inherent in musculoskeletal injuries, some employers and treating physicians choose to take a “wait and see” approach first, delaying active physical therapy treatment in hopes that resting at home and assistance of over-the-counter medication will do the trick. However, according to research (Phillips and Shoemaker, JOEM 2017), this method often causes more problems than it solves, specifically driving up clinical costs and extending case duration.
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