Often, when you've been off work due to a work-related injury, getting the go-ahead from your workers' comp doctor to return to work is a huge relief. It can be a sign that things are starting to return to normal. But what happens if you feel your doctor has made a mistake? What if you don't feel ready to return to work?
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Reasons your doctor may have cleared you even though you're not yet feeling 100%
First, your doctor may have a standing agreement with your adjuster or your employer that he won't keep you from work as long as your employer can find something for you to do. In this case, you may not be returning to your regular job, but at least it will start easing you back into work.
That brings us to the second reason your doctor may have cleared you. Many doctors believe that there is healing power in being active and out of the house and that even light duty can help you recover. While this isn't true in every case, many clients were worse off sitting in the house than getting back into shape.
However, it is also possible that your workers' comp doctor may not have a good idea of the physical demands of your job. While that could be down to the fact that your doctor just isn't familiar with your line of work, it's also possible that your Rehabilitation Professional gave your doctor an edited job description. Sometimes this happens by choice of the RP; sometimes, the employer makes the edits. However, if the doctor doesn't clearly understand what you do, they might clear you for a job you're not ready to do yet.
If you think your doctor has released you too soon, talk to him about it. He may have misunderstood what you told him. If you know your doctor well enough, ask him why he thinks you're ready to return to work. You may need to get another opinion before going back to work
Do I Need to Be Physically Prepared For Work?
Before returning to work, consider whether you need to be physically ready for work. If you've suffered a severe injury, you may need to take several weeks off to recover. Also, if you've had surgery, you may need to wait until your wound heals before returning to work.
Your workers' comp doctor may suggest short breaks throughout the day to help prevent further injury. He/she may also advise you to avoid lifting heavy items or working at heights.
You may need to seek medical care if you experience pain or discomfort during your recovery period. If you feel sick or dizzy, call your doctor right away.
I Can't Do Everything That I Used To Do
The bottom line is that if you file a workers' comp claim, you should not return to work until your doctor releases you. This gives you time to heal and recover and allows you to avoid making mistakes that could lead to another workplace accident.
Talk to your doctor first when you're ready to return to work. He or she will determine whether you're physically capable of returning to work and if so when you can safely resume complete duties.
If you have concerns, follow them up with your medical care provider. Communication is critical to ensure they clearly understand your injury and your ability to work.
If you believe your doctor has cleared you for work you're not ready to do, it's a good idea to speak with a workers' compensation attorney. They can help you take the following steps and talk to the right people so that you can focus on your recovery.