Want to Reduce Injured Worker Stress? An Onsite Physical Therapist Can Help

Physical therapists could be the perfect resource for injured workers struggling with stress and other mental health issues.
By: | November 2, 2021

It’s no surprise that workplace injuries are stressful. Workers may be in pain after their injuries. They could be feeling overwhelmed by the workers’ compensation process and unsure of what steps to take or who to turn to for help.

When employers are considering how to reduce injured worker stress, they might ignore one critical resource: physical therapists.

During a session at the National Ergonomics Conference and Ergo Expo (ErgoExpo) on Tuesday, November 2, Brian Boyle, PT DPT, WorkWell Prevention & Care shared how onsite-physical therapists can help reduce worker stress.

His session, titled “How Onsite Physical Therapists Reduce Worker Stress,” dove into the physical therapist’s role in reducing worker stress and aid in return-to-work planning.

Why Physical Therapists Can Reduce Stress

Physical therapists have a number of skills that make them a great resource for helping injured workers with their stress. PTs are medical professionals and consequently are trained to interact with patients to help them heal. They also have frequent contact with their patients in many cases, so they can detect any shifts in mood or attitude.

This frequent contact means that they can spot any unhealthy stress a worker might be feeling and help them work through it before it details their claim.

“It’s really important to note that not all stress is bad. It is usually the stress that goes unchecked over the long term that causes health issues because the body never receives a “clear signal” to return to normal,” Boyle said.

Another reason physical therapists might be a good resource for reducing employee stress is that they’re a familiar face during a confusing time. If an employer has an onsite physical therapist, workers would have likely encountered them before their injury.

“Because the PT may already have a relationship with the employee from past experience being onsite, the employee has someone they can turn to who they know and trust,” Boyle said.

“This peace of mind can go a long way, especially in the early stages after an injury when an employee feels a lot of uncertainty.”

Boyle is excited to explore this topic at the conference because he thinks mental health is under-discussed in the industry.  Reducing stress amongst injured workers during this time is critical, since many workers may be experiencing more stress than usual.

One 2021 survey found that nearly 80% of U.S. workers are considered about their mental health.

“I really wanted to speak at the National Ergonomics Conference and Expo about the onsite PT and worker stress because there isn’t a lot of available research being done on what some would consider to be a soft skill,” Boyle said. &

Courtney DuChene is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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