Overcoming soft tissue injuries

Thursday, 02 March, 2006

New guidelines supporting the effective management of soft tissue have been released by WorkCover NSW.

A comprehensive training program to educate industry about the guidelines has been developed by WorkCover, in collaboration with Royal North Shore Sydney University Pain Management and Research Centre.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association won a contract in January to provide training on the guidelines over the next 18 months to more than 2,500 WorkCover approved therapists, including physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths.

WorkCover NSW chief executive officer, Jon Blackwell, said the guidelines offer an evidence-based approach to managing soft tissue injuries to assist treatment and rehabilitation practitioners make informed decisions to improve health outcomes.

"The guidelines focus on the promotion of return to normal activity as soon as possible, using relevant activity based programs that complement physical therapy," said Blackwell.

"We want to ensure that injured workers in NSW get the most appropriate intervention and receive the best possible medical treatment."

Soft tissue and muscle injuries, or sprains and strains, account for more than 60 per cent of NSW workplace injuries each year, with back injuries making up more than one third of these injuries.

"By focusing on early intervention, we aim to reduce the likelihood of permanent disability that can result from these types of injuries," said Blackwell.

Soft tissue injuries represent 95% of all permanent impairment back injuries in NSW.

"Although the majority of soft tissue injuries successfully heal, some can result in long-term disability and permanent unemployment," he said.

This approach to soft tissue injury management in the new guidelines requires all parties involved in the injured worker's care to identify any return to work barriers, and also screen for risks that may result in permanent disability.

The guidelines were developed after extensive industry consultation with medical and rehabilitation providers and insurers.

The Management of Soft Tissue Injuries Guidelines includes three publications: A General Guide, an Insurer Guide and a Treatment Provider Guide.

The guidelines and further information on WorkCover injury management initiatives are available on the WorkCover website, www.workcover.nsw.gov.au

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