Everything You Need To Know About Work Conditioning

Any injury or illness can be annoying, but when it affects your ability to return to work it can be an even bigger issue than just pain or swelling. Luckily, at Motus we offer special services to help you in such situations. Our Work Conditioning Program is a great way to help you heal from injury and prepare you for your return to work, no matter what the job is!


What is Work Conditioning?

Work Conditioning is an intense, individualized, goal oriented program specifically designed to restore strength, flexibility, endurance and movement, allowing a patient to safely return to work with the ability to perform all of their usual daily tasks. It focuses on more than just recovering from injury. Your injured body may feel better, but you still might not be able to perform the same tasks that your job requires. The goal of the program is to return patients to work and restore the ability to meet work parameters in a safe and healthy way. The program is customized for an individual’s work conditions and job responsibilities. By recreating work scenarios at a patient’s job and simulating the same movements, weight, heights etc. encountered in their day to day activity, we can prepare them for what’s ahead and ready them for every scenario they may face.

What does the program entail?

The program is unique for every patient, but generally, it can last 2-4 weeks with sessions 3-5 days a week lasting several hours a day (up to 8 hours a day in some cases). Duration and timeframe greatly depend on the patient’s needs and other factors such as work hours and case manager approval. This program is reliant on active participation; you are only as successful as what you put into it. There are elements of Occupational therapy and job specific simulations included; general conditioning, flexibility exercises and cardiovascular fitness are all elements of the program. Workplace simulations can include lifting, climbing and the use of actual work products/tools to allow patients to practice their job duties in a safe, controlled environment, before returning to work. It is important to note that a referral from a physician or case manager/ adjuster is required in order for the work conditioning program to be covered under medical insurance, workers compensation, or auto insurance.

 What are the most common industries we see in the Work Conditioning Program and what are their rehab routines like?


Warehouse workers

Depending on the company, warehouse positions tend to involve a lot of loading, boxing/ unboxing, heavy lifting and long hours on your feet. An injury  can make it difficult to complete many of these tasks due to decreased upper and lower body strength (like loss of mobility from a shoulder injury) or inability to work on your feet for long hours (like a knee injury).

For these types of workers, the program typically includes many of the following exercises and work simulations (material handling tasks):

  • Lifting

    Patients will re-learn to properly lift an item off the ground to their waist and overhead (i.e. putting a box on a shelf). Lifting routines start with lightweight items, gradually building up to the required weight limits set by the employer.

  • Carrying

    Picking up and carrying items of various weights, shapes and sizes is very common in the work conditioning program. Patients will be asked to carry an item in each arm individually and carrying items in both arms. Items are carried for various distances and lengths of time to simulate job duties. If your work requires that you carry items up a ladder or step stool, that will be practiced also.

  • Pushing/Pulling

    This is another very common movement seen in many warehouse positions. Patients will move items with various resistance to simulate a typical work environments.

  • Assembly Line

    For those working on a line, job simulation scenarios will help replicate assembly line work, working the patient up to completing tasks at the same speed and precision prior to injury.

First Responders

EMT, fire fighters, police officers, security officers etc. all have a very different work environment compared to those working in a warehouse setting. These positions are ever changing. Some days are light, others are extremely busy and the setting (indoor/ outdoor, day/night) can also play a large role in that day’s job responsibilities. For these types of jobs, the rehab program relies heavily on occupation simulation to better prepare the patient to return to work.

Since workplace simulation plays a large role in First Responder recovery, may training routines focus around the following:

  • Circuit Training

    Due to the unpredictability of these positions, many training exercises are done in circuits, preparing the patient for busiest days on the job.

  • Endurance Training

    Many first responders in the program need endurance training to rebuild their stamina, regulate breathing and reduce heartrate during times of cardiovascular stress. Part of this includes long periods of standing with no breaks, running, jumping, and working through periods of fatigue.

  • Workplace Simulation

    Nothing is off the table when it comes to reenacting workplace situations. Our specialists have completed an array of tasks with their patients to prepare them to return to work: climbing a ladder while pulling a fire hose, jumping fences to simulate a chase, working outside on uneven terrain, dummy search and rescue/ cpr practice, gun range practice and many, many more!

Maintenance Workers

Since these positions are so labor intensive with many different job demands, maintenance workers such as: cleaners, mechanics, heating/cooling crew members and general laborers are excellent candidates for the Work Conditioning Program. Every position varies, but these positions tend involve regular full body movements, with upper and lower body moving simultaneously. Given that the job descriptions tend to be very involved, and injury to the arms, legs or back can be detrimental to employment.

Maintenance and skilled trade positions generally require full body movements rather than isolation. The rehab program includes many of the following activities depending on the position:

  • Simulation

    Work Conditioning for these roles is mostly simulated activity. Practicing using power tools or hand tools, cleaning motions (such as sweeping, mopping, wiping and reaching), and physical activity such as climbing and crawling are all possibilities in the rehab program.

  • Fine Motor Skills

    Certain occupations, such as auto mechanics, require fine motor skills as part of their job description. Using small tools and therapy instruments, patients will often practice skills like twisting, breaking, grasping and pushing/pulling to strengthen hands and perfect small movements.

  • Endurance Training

    Building up the stamina to complete task for long hours takes time. Endurance training is used to ready the patient for the tasks ahead, including pushing, pulling, standing and a variety of other weighted and unweighted (generally while holding some sort of tool) movements for long periods of time.

No matter the occupation, every recovery program also includes some level of education on proper body mechanics and posturing to prevent reinjury from repetitive movements and strain on the body.


Think Work Conditioning doesn’t apply to your occupation?

As mentioned previously, the Work Conditioning Program is customized for YOUR work environment, which means there are no limits to its industry reach or capabilities. The program strives to help every patient reach their maximum level of functionality.  While the occupations above are some of the more common industries we see, there are several less common positions that have benefited from our Work Conditioning Program:

  • Chefs and other food service workers
  • Mail carriers and delivery drivers
  • Healthcare workers, such as nurses, dental hygienists and surgeons
  • IT and computer user positions

 Still have questions?  Contact us to learn more about the program or to schedule an appointment with one of our Work Conditioning Specialists in Warren or Dearborn!

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