It is widely recognised that being in work is beneficial for both physical and mental health. However, there are many reasons that someone may require an extended period of sick leave. Often this is down to injury, chronic pain, long-term sickness, or mental health problems.
Tips to get back to work.
Getting back to work after an extended absence can be daunting. However, the NHS’s Fit for Work website offers an abundance of helpful advice and tips on making the transition as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
It is proven that being in employment, even if you are still in some pain, can contribute towards both mental and physical recovery. When you return to work, however, it may be impossible for you to return straight away to your previous work environment or workload, especially if it was the cause of your pain or injury in the first place.
It is within your rights to ask for reasonable adjustments to be made to your workplace if this is the case. These adjustments can include: a phased return to work, appropriate changes to your working environment, such as improved accessibility or altered workspaces, and the adjustment of your workload. These adjustments should be planned ahead and considered as soon as you begin your time off work.
To enable any changes that are needed you will need your GP to refer to these on your fit note, which is your evidence of your fitness to work.
A course of physiotherapy may help you recover enough from an injury to return to work. Provided by specially trained and regulated practitioners, physiotherapy can offer you a tailor-made treatment plan of action for your specific pain or injury.
Main approaches range from general education and advice on things that affect our daily lives such as posture and preventative measures, to movement, tailored exercise and physical activity advice, to manual therapy, where a physiotherapist will use their hands to relive pain and stiffness.
Physiotherapy is available through the NHS, but you may first need a referral form your GP. In some areas, you may also be able to directly refer yourself to a physiotherapist – check with your local NHS CCG to find out more.
Waiting lists for NHS treatment can often be very long however, so you may also consider paying for private treatment. Most private physiotherapists do not need a referral from a GP. Private physiotherapists range from £35 to £55 per 30 minutes.
If you are put on a course of medication to manage chronic pain and return to work, it is important that you first review your medication history with your GP. This includes your use of over the counter medications or alternative medicines, with information on your dosage or any reactions you have had in the past. From this, your GP will be able to establish the best course of action to take regarding your medication, which will then be reviewed again after 2-3 weeks of treatment.
For those with persistent pain or injury gentle exercise may help alleviate muscle tension and rebuild strength. Regular walking, cycling and swimming are great low impact ways to rebuild strength, stamina and confidence over time. Equally, exercises such as yoga and Pilates are also great gentle forms of strength building exercise.