In spite of efforts at prevention, work-related injuries sometimes happen. When one does, don't just "get back to work" – take care of it right away.
For repetitive strain injuries and other muscle or joint injuries, there are treatments available to reduce pain and swelling and to preventing the problem from getting worse:
- Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), for example ASA or ibuprofen, are often used to help reduce pain and swelling. If the swelling does not go away, your doctor may also prescribe oral cortisone. Muscle relaxants (orphenadrine) may also be helpful in relieving muscle stiffness.
- Applying an ice pack to the area may help reduce pain and swelling, but only temporarily. If you suffer from a repetitive strain injury, consider wearing a splint to secure your joint in a comfortable position and help reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Exercise is often recommended after the pain and swelling have been reduced. But talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. After an injury, it is important to start exercising slowly to avoid muscle irritation and to prevent loss of movement in the joint. Your doctor can recommend a therapist who can teach you proper exercise for your condition.
Healthcare professionals specializing in rehabilitation medicine can help you recover from any work-related injury or illness:
- A physiotherapist can help you use your body to the best of your ability, and will design an exercise program that will keep you fit and will build up your strength for tasks specific to your job.
- An occupational therapist can work with you to ensure that you will be able to operate the equipment specific to your job after your injury.
- A vocational rehabilitation counsellor can determine what other job you can do according to skills you have, or refer you to government employment agencies that specialize in retraining and job placement, if your injury does not allow you to perform your old job.
- A psychologist can help you deal with feelings associated with your injury – it's not always easy to get back to "normal" after an injury.
While some workplace-related injuries are serious, most are not, and they don't require medical attention or being away from work for a long time. One study found that introducing return-to-work programs and promoting a prevention-focused and "people-oriented" culture are among the most important factors in helping injured workers return to work.
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