Nobody wants to risk their steady paycheck because of an injury. That’s why Dr. Dan Phillips, co-founder of MedAccess Urgent Care, sees many workers’ compensation patients who initially try to tough it out. Phillips explained to Diana Pressey why that can be the worst thing for them to do — it often exacerbates the injury — as well as the other ins and outs of workplace injuries in this month’s Ask the Doctor.
Diana Pressey: What are some of the most common workplace injuries you tend to see at MedAccess?
Dr. Dan Phillips: I think back injuries would probably be at the top of the list across the board for workplace injuries. And that’s not only workplace, but just general, just because of the way we stand on two legs, and people get overweight, perhaps they’re not exercising. Musculoskeletal back pain — that is, muscle strains and spasms — are very, very common. Slips and falls, where you land on your back and injure it, are also common. Low back pain is certainly up there on the list in terms of most common workplace injuries. I think after that it would be shoulder sprains, and then things that come with slip and falls — people dropping a heavy weight on a foot or crushing the hand, or something like that.
Pressey: How does workers’ compensation injury treatment work at MedAccess? Are there specific guidelines or extra steps?
Phillips: Workers’ comp is a whole different form of insurance, if you will. An employer simply sets up a protocol with us, if they want their employees to come to our clinic as the preferred place of visit, they call, we set up a protocol, and typically, workers comp injuries require authorization. So someone can’t just walk in and say, “Hey, I work for this company,” and get medical care — they have to have authorization. We typically call that employer after the visit and let them know what we found so they know what they can expect as far as productivity from the employee. And then, many times with on-the-job injuries, depending on the workers’ comp carrier, there may be a required drug test or blood alcohol test. Those are all set up in protocol.
Pressey: Are there any common mistakes you see people make after work injuries?
Phillips: I think in many cases, most people understand the value of having a good job, and they don’t want to miss pay, so many times they will not report what seems like a minor injury, and they keep working. In many cases, it can make it worse; there’s some delay of treatment, some delayed care. The other thing, though, that I think is more common is many people try to overdo it as soon as they go back. A good example is someone who has a low back strain. They get feeling better a few days after medicines and therapy, and (those who) go out and simply try to resume normal activities without stretching or without using proper lifting techniques may re-injure that muscle.
Pressey: Aside from fully recovering, are there any specific actions workers need to take before returning to the workplace? What about employers?
Phillips: In the case of on-the-job injury and workers’ comp injuries, (employees) typically have to come back to the provider who is treating them and get released back to full duty. Or, if we refer them to, say, orthopedics, or wherever, they have to get released by them. A good example are firefighters or police officers or EMS workers who are in dangerous occupations — particularly firefighters — they get injured on the job, they have to come back and have, basically, an abbreviated medical exam to get released to duty. Some employers are actually having the employee come back and do a limited functional capacity evaluation. So they may have to demonstrate that they can do lifting, pulling, twisting, bending and so forth before they can get released back. It’s dependent on the employer.
Pressey: Do you have any other advice for employers or employees about workplace injuries?
Phillips: The big thing is prevention, and I think every employer agrees that the ideal is to have educated the employees about their job and where the dangers lie, and preventing the injuries. The thing that is coming of age — particularly for jobs where there’s a lot of heavy lifting or pushing or pulling — is when a person is hired, having them demonstrate that they can actually perform that so that the employer is not bringing someone in with a pre-existing bad knee, bad back, etcetera that will flare up and result in an injury. Employers are getting much better at employing these screenings.
Employers can set up workers compensation injury treatment with MedAccess Urgent Care to ensure your employees get the treatment they need. Everyone else, avoid the long wait for your primary care physician by visiting a MedAccess Urgent Care location in Chapel Hill, Roxboro or Youngsville. Walk in whenever you’d like and skip the wait by checking in online.