Physical therapy is often seen as a response to injury. However, it's also an often-overlooked form of preventive care: In fact, it can play a role in preventing back pain, which has the potential to hurt a member's career as well as their quality of life overall.
Per the American Chiropractic Association, back pain is the top cause of disability in the world. It's also one of the top reasons why people miss work. In total, Americans lose more than 264 million work days to back pain per year.
Union leaders can help members understand how to manage — or even prevent — back pain. Here's where to start.
Tracking the Causes of Work-Related Back Pain
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain job conditions are more likely to lead to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Jobs in the construction, manufacturing, health care, retail and grocery industries, in particular, involve routine overhead work, performing repetitive, forceful tasks, working with a craned neck, exposure to whole-body vibration and lifting heavy objects.
Physical exercises may help, serving not only as a recovery method after an injury but as a preventative measure to avoid future ones. Being able to incentivize early preventive care among members requires union leaders to understand why physical therapy and strength training is a good investment in long-term physical health.
Assessing The Benefits of Physical Therapy in Preventive Care
Physical rehabilitation is best known for its use in the recovery process, but therapy also has a role in overall health and help avoid potential problems. Through hands-on care and education, a physical therapist can:
- strengthen core muscles
- improve flexibility
- improve posture
- maintain good balance
- extend range of motion
- reduce inflammation
- aid in spine health
- pinpoint areas that are more susceptible to injury
Alongside general health practices recommended by the National Institutes of Health, such as eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and performing strength training, individualized therapy plans can prevent muscular injuries that may lead to back pain.
Communicating Resources to Members
Union leaders can do their part in encouraging members to see physical therapy as a preventive measure. A good place to start is with a virtual wellness seminar, which serves as a platform to build awareness and connect members with information that could help them prevent muscular injuries and back pain.
Along the same lines, consider sharing resources in the form of a newsletter or email to your members. Point out the potential negative impact of back pain and injury on a member's career and quality of life, and explain how a physical therapist can prevent that.
Encouraging Members to Leverage Their Benefits
Out-of-pocket costs of seeing a physical therapist can deter someone from getting care. You can further help members by ensuring they understand whether physical therapy is covered under their health insurance plan as preventive care. Encourage members to check their health insurance policy to see exactly how many visits are covered and what their copay might be.
Consider designating a knowledgable union representative to answer questions about preventive care and provide the resources to make it accessible within members' health plans.
Union leaders can help members stay productive and comfortable by taking a holistic, integrative approach to physical health. Raising member awareness of preventive measures against debilitating injuries is a critical piece of the puzzle.