If there’s one thing I’ve learned from marathon training, it’s the incredible amount of patience required after an injury. Initially, there’s dealing with the immediate pain, followed by an acceptance that you might not be able to train for, oh, let’s say…a week. After the week comes frustration that I’m not healing fast enough – perhaps I can sneak in a small training session? I’m told not to. So I do it anyway on the promise to go easy and the belief that I’m fine. Then I feel a nagging pain and realize I still have to wait.

Injuries take time to heal. A small fracture or pulled muscle can be a few months. Yet we still assume that a week should be good enough – like getting over the flu. That magical time period is all we allow ourselves before impatience kicks in. We need to get back to our lives, train, visit family, play with the children, go back to work and make some money.

Truth is (and our pocket book dictates) whether it’s a strained back, fall, burn, cut or even a car accident, at some point, we do need to go back to work. The key is to step into it gradually, like a hot tub. If you jump in all at once, you’ll hurt yourself. There’s no sense in risking further injury and end up taking more weeks off.

Most employers are accommodating – just glad to see one of their staff back, healthy and easing the work load. What both employers and staff need to realize is that there needs to be some changes to allow for an adaption period while the body gets used to being back at work and at the same time, can repair itself. While seeing a physiotherapist or doctor is a must, changes at work need to be made as well. It might come in the form of shorter work weeks or lighter duties if possible. The nature of the work needs to be reviewed and possible workstation design or set up needs to be changed to encourage neutral postures.

Consider the nature of the work and if it might aggravate the injury or create more discomfort. Is there a lot of sitting involved? Could the chair have better lumbar support or would a sit-to-stand workstation help? Is the monitor positioned to prevent bending of the neck?  If in an industrial environment, what is it in the scheduling or equipment that could be changed to help the injured worker?

Returning to work with an injury is possible. It just takes patience and some modifications (some temporary). Before you know it, you’ll be back in fine form in no time!

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