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Is Physical Therapy Really Worth It?

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Physical Therapy From A Very Personal Viewpoint

Is Physical Therapy really worth the cost and time?  I recently was asked this question by a Workers Compensation adjuster trainee. My response came from more personal than professional experience. 

Showing Physical Therapy working out
Wikimedia Commons – Melissa Peterson

In 1996, I was walking across a carpeted floor without shoes carrying two boxes. I slipped and fell backwards on my left wrist fracturing it in over 10 places. I was rushed to the emergency room and had my wrist aligned, set and casted. My injury was known as a severe Colles fracture. It was painful. I refused to have pins inserted in my wrist. However, the worse pain was yet to come.

Six weeks after my injury, my cast was removed. The moment the cast was removed I was introduced to my physical therapist. As I have long been a guitar player, I asked if I was ever going to play guitar again. The physical therapist twisted and pulled on my wrist until it swelled up like a balloon. There was two more months of every kind of painful exercise imaginable to get my wrist back in shape.

One of the interesting techniques for soothing my aching wrist involved no medication. I placed my wrist in hot water and then in ice water for a few minutes each. After alternating between icy water and hot water, my wrist would quit hurting for the most part. I was willing to do just about anything to get my left wrist back to a guitar playing mode.

Physician Doing Physical Therapy To Patient
StockUnlimited

After six weeks, my wrist was actually in great shape. I was able to function like my old self and the guitar playing was back to normal. Typing was painful for quite some time. I asked the orthopedist to satisfy my curiosity and assign a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) rating due to my Workers Comp background.

The Dr. assigned a PPD rating of 2%. I thought that was an amazing recovery. I owed a large amount of the recovery to the painful, yet important physical therapy.

The bottom line is that in my opinion physical therapy, if followed by the injured employee, can be extremely helpful to recovering from a Workers Compensation injury. It is up to the employee as to how helpful the physical therapy is for their recovery.

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3 Responses

  1. As a Board Certified Occ Med doctor with decades of clinical experience, I know that James Moore is correct: anyone who fractures a bone in 10 places can benefit from physical therapy. The reality is that such patients make up less than one percent of injured workers. Routine referral of back sprains and ankle sprains to 4 to 20 PT visits has been proven (by objective studies) to be unnecessary and wasteful. The vast majority of those patients do not need PT. Most need only time, local ice or heat, OTC anti-inflammatory meds, home exercises (e.g stretching) and temporary reduction of physical demands at work (e.g. light duty) as needed.

  2. If you’re trying to determine if PT is appropriate, first check out your doctor. Then your PT. Referral to a GOOD physical therapist by a GOOD physician is always appropriate. Know your providers.

  3. Physical Therapy in the world is changing dramatically. If one googles advanced practice physiotherapy or consultant physiotherapist the evidence will start raining. Studies that have compared physiotherapists with physicians have proved that a physiotherapist provides better outcomes with less costs for musculoskeletal treatment. In countries with a public health system such as Canada and UK, physiotherapists are primary care practitioners because there is no conflict of interests. Now if we abandon reason (mathematics – statistics) and favor titles and classes, then… well ice, drugs and rest are you best option!

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James Moore

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Mgmt Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications

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