Treating Our Industrial Athletes – The Role of Laser Therapy in Injury Prevention, Management, and Workers Compensation Cost Savings
The State of Workers Compensation
Workers compensation is a major expense for manufacturing companies and in environments where physical labor is prevalent. The skilled workers performing these tasks are often referred to as “Industrial Athletes”. They experience many injuries similar to those in professional athletics due to the demanding physical environment and repetitive nature of physical movements.
In 2013, benefit payments through worker’s compensation programs soared to an impressive $63.3 billion dollars.1 OSHA estimates that employment-related musculoskeletal disorders in the United States made up over 600,000 of the on-the-job incurred injuries and illnesses, accounting for 34% of all lost workdays based on a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2
As a result of the prevalence of work-related injuries, and high direct and indirect costs associated with these cases, many companies are looking for new ways to prevent injuries, and expedite recovery when injuries do occur.
Bringing it In-House, Realizing Cost Savings
According to the Insurance Journal, the top five workers compensation injuries as a percentage of total claims are:
- Strains and sprains (30%)
- Cuts or punctures (19%)
- Contusions (12%)
- Inflammation (5%)
- Fractures (5%)3
Strains, sprains, and inflammation (accounting for 35% of the top 5 claims) can often be successfully treated with early intervention through both conventional rehabilitation methods and newer techniques such as deep tissue laser therapy. If these common musculoskeletal issues are treated early, they can majorly reduce the number of workers compensation claims and missed days of work, ultimately impacting the bottom line.
Many companies are investing in in-house physical therapy clinics to intervene at the first sign of pain. One such clinic is Zellstoff Celgar Ltd. (ZCL), located in British Columbia, Canada. ZCL is one of the largest kraft pulp mills in North America and has leveraged an in-house physical therapy program since 2005 to keep their industrial athletes healthy and on the job.
ZCL’s in-house physiotherapy program focuses on injury prevention and has found the addition of their deep tissue therapy laser a valuable tool in quickly resolving pain, inflammation, and acute sprains & strains. ZCL’s data shows that prior to implementing their laser therapy program they experienced an average of 35.17 musculoskeletal injuries (MSI) per year. After the addition of the therapy laser, their average MSI per year decreased to 12 MSI – a 65% decrease that resulted in nearly $500,000 of claim savings.4
Laser Therapy for Post-Injury Recovery
Injury prevention is the goal, however, when injuries do occur, laser therapy can help shorten recovery times and return workers to their normal job functions faster.
Tendinopathy is one condition commonly found in industrial settings. Low Level Laser Treatment of Tendinopathy: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis reviewed the effectiveness of laser therapy for tendinopathy. These studies identified evidence to support that laser therapy can be effective in treating tendinopathy when an optimal dosage is applied.5
Back, neck and shoulder pain are another common complaint among industrial workers in a wide range of job functions, from those operating machinery, to those lifting heavy loads and performing repetitive overhead movements. In a randomized controlled study performed by the University of Colorado Denver, 55 patients with low back pain were randomized to receive either manual adjustment or adjustment followed by laser therapy. After 4 weeks, the laser therapy group had a 71% reduction in pain score (VAS) and showed significantly better improvement than the group who received manipulation alone.6
In order to achieve these kind of positive clinical results, it is essential that a proper diagnosis be made and adequate energy be delivered to target tissue. In the textbook Current Perspectives in Clinical Treatment & Management in Workers’ Compensation Cases, the chapter “Advances in Laser Therapy for the Treatment of Work Related Injuries“ discusses the history of therapeutic lasers and the technological advancements of newer technology that enable consistent positive outcomes for common work related injuries.7 It is well documented that adequate dosing is the most important factor in achieving clinical outcomes on all injuries, but especially when conditions involving deep tissue structures (such as back pain) are involved.
Get Your Industrial Athletes Back in Action
Adding laser therapy as an adjunct to your current physio and rehabilitation programs can prevent injuries, shorten recovery times when injuries do occur, and positively impact your bottom line. Deep tissue laser therapy can be an effective modality for any conditions where pain and inflammation are present, with no side effects, and no drugs.
For more information about the impact deep tissue laser therapy can have on the common conditions present in your clinic please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.