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The Industrial Athlete

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The Industrial Athlete

  • July 1, 2021

The Industrial Athlete

150 150 SSI Physical Therapy and Health Club

Have you ever considered yourself a professional athlete? Even if we don’t report to a locker room, playing field or basketball court every day, performing our jobs can be compared to playing a sport. Many of our jobs require us to perform physical activities such as standing, walking, stooping, lifting, carrying, reaching and climbing. Staying healthy and knowing how to perform these activities correctly can help us be successful at our chosen profession.

Physical therapists are experts in the field of body mechanics and posture. Even if your job requires you to sit at a desk for most of the day, knowing how to correctly position your chair, keyboard, computer monitor, telephone and other necessary equipment can insure that you complete your day pain-free and productive. Those that have to drive for their jobs can benefit from a therapist reviewing their car seat position and quick exercises to do in and out of the vehicle to keep their shoulders, neck and back feeling great while they travel from place to place. We should consider ourselves as “athletes” and perfect our ability to perform our “sport” at our daily job.

In addition to advising employees on correct posture and positioning at work, therapists can also help to place employees in a job that they can perform well regarding physical demands. The U.S. Department of Labor has a classification system for all jobs and types of work and provides guidelines for classifying jobs based on their physical demand level. (http://www.oalj.dol.gov/LIBDOT.HTM) The following table shows the different physical demand levels and what is required for each level:

Physical Demand LevelOccasional
0-33% of the day
34-66% of the day
>66% of the day
SEDENTARYUp To 10 lbsNegligibleNegligible
LIGHT11-20 lbsUp to 10 lbsNegligible
MEDIUM21-50 lbs11-25 lbsUp to 10 lbs
HEAVY51-100 lbs26-50 lbs11-20 lbs
VERY HEAVYOver 100 lbsOver 50 lbsOver 20 lbs

Examples for each level:

  • Sedentary: Court reporter, insurance adjuster, receptionist, administrator, writer
  • Light: Sewing machine operator, punch press operator, records clerk, retail salesperson, waiter, light truck driver
  • Medium: Forklift operator, custodian, sheet metal worker, auto mechanic, long-haul truck driver, bricklayer
  • Heavy: Street maintenance worker, heavy equipment mechanic, heating and air conditioning repair worker, framing carpenter •Very Heavy: Trash collector, firefighter, deckhand.

Some employers may send prospective employees for a post-offer screening during which workers are evaluated by a therapist to determine their physical demand level. These screens also serve the purpose of educating employees on correct body mechanics for lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling that will aid them in performing their jobs.

The physical therapists at SSI have experience in post-offer screenings in addition to having two therapists certified to perform functional capacity evaluations (FCE). FCE’s may be ordered for an employee when he/she is returning to their job following an illness or injury in order to insure successful return to work. Typically, FCE’s last 2-4 hours and provide the worker an opportunity to show what they can do regarding lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, sitting, standing, walking, climbing, bending, reaching, squatting, kneeling and crawling.

While undergoing treatment at SSI, your therapist may incorporate aspects of your job into your treatment such as posture and lifting mechanics. If you have a concern regarding your ability to perform your job or questions about work station set up, feel free to ask for advice. Many times, patients will bring in pictures of themselves at their work station for tips and changes that may help them perform their jobs better and without pain.

We want all of our patients to be successful in their chosen profession whether that involved sports, working in a warehouse, sitting at a desk, operating equipment or caring for their families.

Ask a physical therapist how we can better prepare you for your job!