Empowering Injured Workers: The Key to Rehabilitation Success

Workplace injuries can have a huge impact on injured workers not only physically but also psychologically, financially and personally. According to Safe Work Australia statistics, during the 2015-2016 financial year there were 104,770 serious workers compensation claims made in Australia, 90% of these were due to injury and musculoskeletal disorders. Returning to work promptly and safely following an injury has been shown to have positive health benefits and better long-term outcomes for injured workers. Absolute Balance’s team of Accredited Exercise Physiologists specialise in providing musculoskeletal rehabilitation for injured workers following work place injuries, using graded exercise rehabilitation to restore function, reduce the risk of injury recurrence and ultimately return to work. However, our role as an Allied Health Professional does not start and finish in the gym, one of the key roles we play in the return to work process is empowering the injured worker to manage their own injuries.  This is a crucial part of successful rehabilitation and principle three of the Work Cover WA Clinical Framework for the Delivery of Health Services. Empowerment of the injured worker is achieved through education, setting expectations, developing self-management strategies and promoting independence from treatment.

This is how we implement these keys to empowerment at Absolute Balance;

Education & Awareness: We educate the client on their role and our role in the rehabilitation process, the injury life cycle, prognosis, expected outcomes, simplify their diagnosis and the benefits of early intervention and engagement. Education helps to overcome fear and unhelpful beliefs surrounding injuries. Knowledge is power!

Setting Expectations: At the initial consult we discuss the importance of the injured worker engaging in the rehabilitation process and give them a clear understanding of how may supervised and unsupervised exercise sessions they will be required to complete each week initially. Compliance to self-managed exercise sessions means that the rehabilitation programme can generally progress faster as regular rehabilitation can help to speed up tissue healing and physiological adaptations that occur as a result of progressive overload and neuromuscular activation, such as improvements in mobility, stability, proprioception or strength.

Developing Self-Management Strategies: We provide self-managing equipment so injured workers can perform their rehabilitation exercises at home and work as well as at the gym to reduce the barriers to treatment. We use an exercise prescription ‘APP’ that allows injured workers to access their rehabilitation programmes on their smart phones with videos of our consultants explaining muscle activation, motor control which helps to promote self-management and builds self-efficacy. We help to establish a regular and realistic exercise schedule around work commitments or a return to work programme which can have the added benefit of helping to manage stress and anxiety which are often experienced when a significant work place injury has been sustained.

Promoting Independence from Treatment: We teach the client how to manage relapses with techniques such as self-myofascial release, specific stretching and mobility exercises and/or conservative managment. We teach the client about potential triggers and provide a planned reduction in treatment frequency. Independence does not mean being symptom free, but rather living a functional and productive life while self-managing symptoms if they arise.

If you would like more information on the above or the role of exercise rehabilitation in the return to work process, please contact an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Absolute Balance for more information.

Lisa Wallbutton (BSR, MClinicalExPhysiol(Rehab))

Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)




Transport Accident Compensation and Work Safe Victoria . (2012). Clinical Framework for the Delivery of Health Services . Victoria.