Would you try to run a marathon without training for it? You could I guess, but most people wouldn’t be successful and even if they somehow finished, they’d likely hurt themselves. A smart person would do a training program where they worked their way in to shape and prepared their body to handle the stress of race day. This is the same idea by a benefit available under Illinois work comp law called work conditioning.
Also known as work hardening, work conditioning is a program for injured Illinois workers who have been off the job for some period of time and are hoping to return to a job that involves a lot of labor or activity. The goal is to prevent you from going back to work and getting re-injured right away. So instead of jumping in to an eight hour work day with lots of lifting, you train your body for that type of work.
Often performed by physical therapists, this benefit to you will start at just a couple hours a day and will simulate the movements and activities you have to do on the job. Over a period of weeks you will increase the amount of time per day you train as well as the difficulty of the tasks. You and your therapist will set goals, create a customized program for you, work on safe body mechanics and discuss other things that can increase your chances of remaining healthy such as proper nutrition.
If your doctor recommends work conditioning, you have to do it. If you don’t your benefits can be terminated. While in this program you should receive TTD payments. You are in a work setting, but not doing actual work.
A lot of these programs focus on strength. Many long term injuries to the back leave you in a weakened condition, even if you don’t realize it. You’ve spent a lot of time in bed or sitting on the couch, especially if you are recovering from a surgery. You’ve been de-conditioned and these programs re-condition you to get back to where you need to be.
Weekly progress reports are part of the process and some injured workers we know have told us that they come out of this in the best shape of their lives.
When your training program is over, you will often be given a functional capacity examination or FCE. This is a 2-4 test that gives both workers and employers a realistic evaluation as to where your health is and if you can return to work full duty or need some restrictions. The #1 goal is to get you back to work, but #1A is to make sure you don’t hurt yourself as soon as you are back.
Bonus tip. Just like you can pick your own doctor, you can also choose where to go for work conditioning. If you have questions as to who does a good job with that, we’d be happy to point you in the right direction based on where you live and what type of work you do.