Work Conditioning vs. Work Hardening

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Physical conditioning and rehabilitation are crucial components of workplace safety and productivity. When workers experience an injury or illness that affects their ability to perform job duties, a structured rehabilitation program may help them get back on their feet. Two common types of rehabilitation programs used in the workplace are work conditioning and work hardening. While these terms may sound similar, their goals and intensity differ. This article will provide an overview of work conditioning and hardening, explore the differences between these two programs, and examine the benefits they can provide for workers and employers.

What is Work Conditioning?

Work conditioning is an engaging program designed to help workers regain strength, endurance, and function to return to their pre-injury work. This program often includes strength training and exercise to improve motor control. Work conditioning is typically used for workers who have completed initial medical treatment and need further rehabilitation to prepare for a safe return to work. This process enables the patient’s recuperation and prevents any future injuries by restoring physical capabilities while reducing anxieties associated with returning to a job!

What is Work Hardening?

Work hardening is a comprehensive program designed to help individuals return to their pre-injury work level most safely and efficiently. Combining physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological counseling, and vocational support provides an interdisciplinary approach that ensures whole-person recovery. Work-hardening programs increase the return to work rate by over 50%. The program typically involves a combination of exercises, job simulation activities, and functional capacity testing, intending to prepare the worker for a safe return to their pre-injury job duties.

Differences Between Work Conditioning and Work Hardening

While work conditioning and hardening are rehabilitation programs designed to help injured workers return to work, the two programs have some critical differences. Conditioning aims to help injured workers regain physical strength, endurance, and flexibility to return to their pre-injury job duties safely and effectively. In contrast, work hardening aims to prepare the worker for the physical demands of their job duties.

Work conditioning is typically less intensive than work hardening. Work conditioning programs may involve low-intensity exercises and activities that gradually increase intensity. In contrast, work hardening programs are highly structured and intensive, with more demanding exercises and job simulation activities that mimic the physical demands of the worker’s job duties.

Choosing the Right Program for Your Employees

When choosing the right program for your employees, it is essential to consider their needs and experiences. Work conditioning may be the right program if your employees have not had much experience with physical labor or hazardous materials. If your employees have not had a lot of experience with the specific hazards of their job, then work hardening may be the right program for them.

It is important to remember that work conditioning and hardening have benefits. Work conditioning can help employees become accustomed to their job’s physical and mental demands. In contrast, work hardening can help employees become used to the specific hazards of their job. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which program is right for your employees.

If you or someone you know is struggling with chronic pain affecting their ability to work, Serenity Healthcare Partners may be able to help. Their functional restoration program is holistic and focuses on improving physical functioning, mental health, and coping skills. Contact Serenity Healthcare Partners today to learn more about their program and how they can help you or your loved one regain function and return to work safely and effectively.


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