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When you get hurt on the job, you should go to the doctor. I don’t think many people would argue with that statement. You do it to find out what’s wrong with you and to get better.

A common thing for a doctor to recommend in Illinois work comp cases is physical therapy. It’s not expensive, it usually works and it’s not a surgery which is invasive.  In fact, if your doctor recommends physical therapy and you don’t go, the insurance company can terminate your benefits. Under Illinois work comp law you have to follow doctor recommendations that aren’t invasive. They can’t make you have surgery, but can require therapy.

But what happens if you are going to physical therapy and it’s making your condition worse? Can you just stop going?

While you should of course avoid activities that injure you, I wouldn’t recommend that you just stop going.  Here’s what you should do instead:

  1. Talk to the therapist and let them know which activities are hurting you and ask if there are alternative ones they could do.  You don’t want to ever appear uncooperative with your health care if you can avoid.  Most physical therapists are reasonable.  It’s also good to have your concerns documented.
  2. Talk to your orthopedic doctor and let them know the concerns. They might stop the therapy for you or suggest something else like an epidural shot or a surgery. While physical therapy usually helps, it doesn’t always work. If it fails then the doctor knows a new plan of attack must happen.

The important thing to remember is that you are not a doctor and can’t make medical decisions on your own if you want to keep getting work comp benefits.  So show up and be an advocate for yourself.

This issue also shows why it’s important to not let the insurance company or employer choose your treating doctor or therapist.  You want someone independent to handle your case as they are more likely to listen to you and act based on your best interests, not that of the insurance company.

Above all, don’t panic.  Use your voice, ask questions and make an educated decision from there.  And of course if you want to talk to a lawyer about this you can contact us any time.