Experiencing a back injury can affect your life in a lot of ways. You may not be able to jump straight back into your job or take on as much as you used to, but getting back to work can be an important part of your recovery.
In fact, many people find that returning to work improves their physical and mental wellbeing, keeps them connected with others, and helps them feel like things are on track.
Check out these tips for a successful return to work – and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.
1. Go at your own pace
There are many types of back injuries that can affect your recovery and return to work in different ways. It’s important to follow medical advice and make realistic steps towards returning to work at the right time.
In fact, returning to work can be an important part of the recovery process. Many people find that getting back to work helps them feel on track and connected. Being active and moving around, instead of staying in bed all day, can also help improve strength and flexibility in your back.
You may want to return to work in a gradual way, especially if you haven’t fully recovered yet. That could involve working part-time, or working in a different role that’s less physically demanding before transitioning back to your old position.
2. Discuss returning to work with your employer
It’s important to work closely with your employer during the process of returning to work. If they haven’t called you yet, consider making contact with them.
Talk with your employer about the parts of your job that you think you can do and the parts that might be too strenuous for you at the moment. It’s also a good idea to ask your health practitioners to communicate with your employer about what’s a suitable workload for your return.
Returning to work can be overwhelming at times. If you need assistance, support is available. You may be eligible for Disability Employment Services. Find out more: What is DES?
3. Get career advice from an employment consultant
Returning to your previous job can help bring normality back into your life and can be really positive if you’re able to manage the tasks. However, some jobs may cause a lot of strain on your body and may not be the best environment for you moving forward.
If you can no longer work in your previous role or are considering changing careers, it can help to talk with an employment consultant. Employment consultants can help you discover career pathways and job opportunities that are a good fit for you.
The best jobs for people with back injuries tend to be low-stress jobs that are not physically demanding. However, a lot of jobs and workplaces can be modified to suit your needs.
If you’re having trouble finding work, talk with an employment consultant about how to get a job after a back injury. They’ll be able to provide support with things like writing job applications, accessing further training, and preparing for interviews.
4. Adopt self-care strategies
In addition to the following advice from health professionals and following your treatment plan, it’s important to practice self-care at home and in the workplace.
Looking after your physical and mental health can assist with your recovery and improve your overall well-being.
Be mindful of your posture at work. Sit straight with your shoulders back and your tummy tucked in. Maintaining a good posture can help reduce pain symptoms and improve back strength.
Try to exercise regularly (as recommended by your health team) as this can strengthen back muscles, improve flexibility and boost your overall health. Avoid smoking as this can slow down the healing process.
5. Ask for workplace adjustments
Talk to your boss or human resources department about changes you could make in the workplace to help manage pain and improve recovery.
Workplace adjustments can be as simple as breaking up sitting and standing tasks so that you aren’t doing either for a long period of time – or changing the way you do certain tasks to reduce the stress on your back.
Your employer may also be willing to buy ergonomic equipment for you, such as chairs with back support or adjustable standing desks so you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
6. Check in with your support people
Your capabilities and needs will change as your recovery progresses, so it is important to keep checking in with your employer, doctor, and any other support people in your life.
Make sure you attend all appointments, even if you’re feeling good. You should also keep a record of all your test results and the medications you’re taking. You may find it helpful to keep a journal or diary to record pain levels and mood changes throughout your week.
Practice positive thinking and try to focus on the things that you can control. It can be frustrating if your recovery is taking longer than expected, but keeping a positive attitude can help with your return to work and improve your overall well-being.
Many people experience anxiety or depression after a back injury. If you are finding it hard to cope, speak to your GP about mental health services.
7. Stay connected
It’s easy to become isolated after an injury, but staying connected with workmates, friends, and family is an important part of recovery.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Living with a back injury can be physically and mentally draining – take time to look after yourself and have positive experiences with people who care about you.