Occupational Health Practice
Many osteopaths provide injury management services to clients who have been injured in occupational or other environments. Occupational health osteopaths work primarily in primary health care practice as treating practitioners, assisting injured clients to return to work safely. All treatments offered by occupational health osteopaths aim to assist in recovery from a workplace injury, progress return to work options, prevent long term occupational incapacity or disability; while recognising the benefits of social, economic and community participation to personal wellbeing.
Occupational health osteopaths are registered under state based workers compensation schemes as participating practitioners. They work with workers compensation agents, private insurers, employers and other health practitioners as part of an interconnected network.
Assessment and injury management
There are clinical processes and requirements that all osteopaths follow, regardless of their clinical focus, before they provide treatment. These include performing a physical assessment, a thorough health history, discussion of a proposed treatment plan, provision of advice and information on the risks and benefits of any proposed treatment; and confirmation of your willingness to proceed – otherwise known as informed consent.
An assessment performed by an occupational health osteopath may include the following additional specific clinical components:
- Assessing your existing capacity and the status or impact of your identified workplace injury
- Clinical outcome measurement to determine how treatment might improve your capacity to undertake your workplace roles
- Assessment of circumstances that led to your injury. Biological, psychological and social contributing factors, the requirements of your work role, and other characteristics of your work environment will be reviewed to identify factors that may have resulted in, or predisposed you to, injury
- Development of a return to work plan to meet requirements of your state based workers compensation injury management scheme and your injury rehabilitation goals, aiming to optimise skills and capabilities relevant to your workplace
- Discussion of modifications, equipment or adjustments that may improve your prospects of successfully returning to your workplace in consultation with your injury case manager
- Discussion and review of your eligibility for ongoing entitlements under your state based injury management scheme and where limitations may apply
- Discussion of recovery timeframes, and symptoms or sensations associated with your injury, referring to medical advice, work related reports and your individual history
- Where appropriate, alternative work roles or career change will be discussed with you. Any related capacities, skills or functions you may benefit in incorporating in order to transition to a new workplace will be discussed.
Occupational health osteopaths provide a range of workplace injury management approaches to assist rehabilitation.
Manual therapy may be provided, if appropriate to an injury, or to relieve symptoms or aid recovery.
Instruction in and demonstration of strategies to safely manage activities, gradually resume pre-injury tasks or improve work related functional skills, may be provided.
Exercises may be prescribed where appropriate, to improve conditioning for work related tasks.
Occupational health osteopaths also offer advice on return to work strategies suited to your circumstances, including specification of duties, recommendation of environmental modifications, hours and tasks appropriate to your rate of recovery. This may assist you to manage further injury risks and adjust your work practices to accommodate your injury while you recover.
Occupational health osteopaths give referrals to and work with other health professionals, occupational case managers and others to coordinate injury management responses, return to work processes, or if advised by a treating medical practitioner. Osteopaths also receive regular referrals from other health professionals.
Extended practice in occupational health
With further education, training and experience, some occupational health osteopaths have successfully broadened their practice to provide advice to key stakeholders in occupational and workplace settings often on a corporation wide level. These occupational health osteopaths provide on-site task analysis; develop site specific injury management protocols; and provide education on manual handling techniques. They also provide ergonomics assessments and perform task oriented tests to prevent workplace injuries, plan workplaces better and optimise efficient task completion.
Special considerations of occupational health osteopaths
Occupational health osteopaths have knowledge of clinical interventions and rehabilitation techniques for musculoskeletal injuries, applicable to various workplace settings. They understand:
- State based workers compensation injury management scheme obligations, requirements and processes
- National and state based Work, Health and Safety legislation, regulations and obligations
- Physical reparation, tissue healing and recovery processes
- Environmental analysis and design, including understanding relationships between the characteristics of workplaces, occupational environments and rates of injury
- The goals of workplace injury management from the perspective of various third parties involved
- Occupational health osteopaths are able to estimate how return to work proposals may impact on client recovery and rehabilitation timeframes
- Manual handling and ergonomics best practice and are able to apply associated principles to individual workers, teams, occupational environments and workplaces.
Note: there are no specialisations within osteopathy. However many osteopaths choose to work with a specific patient group or groups and undertake further study and/or training to support their clinical focus.