Work Conditioning is a “work related, intensive, goal-oriented treatment program specifically designed to restore an individual’s systemic, neuro-musculo-skeltal (strength, endurance, movement, flexibility and motor control) and cardiopulmonary functions. The objective of the Work Conditioning program is to restore the client’s physical capacity and function so the client can return to work.” (APTA Guidelines for Programs in Industrial Rehabilitation, APTA BoD 11/92) Work Conditioning is most appropriate for individuals who are beyond the initial healing time following an injury, unless necessity is justified, and continue with physical impairment and functional difficulties. Client’s typically do not demonstrate abnormal illness behavior and have a specific job which he/she can return. Education, exercise and job simulation are primary components of a Work Conditioning program.
A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is an objective test designed to measure the client’s current functional abilities. The FCE requires 4-8 hours of client testing over one or more days and should take place within the context of the demands of competitive employment. The FCE incorporates a comprehensive neuromuscular examination with measurement of physical impairment, symptom magnification and worker behaviors, and function, and culminates with the measurements of physical impairment, symptom magnification and worker behaviors, and function, and culminates with the measurement of the current functional abilities of the client. The measurements of function from the FCE should be compared to the physical demands of the job to which the client is expected to return to ensure proper return to work decision making or rehabilitation plan generation. Since the work capacity implies potential, which by definition can not be measured, the ability of the individual to perform functional or work related tasks is measured, and the potential to sustain these work related tasks are inferred. To quantify the ability of the individual to sustain the work tasks, a work conditioning or work hardening program can be performed (Task force of VA 1990)