Work conditioning and work hardening are high levels of therapeutic intervention designed to help patients regain enough function to return to work. These therapies are ideal for patients that have already progressed through traditional physical therapy but still lack full function in relation to specific duties required on the job. Work conditioning and work hardening utilize real or simulated work tasks to help prepare patients for a safe transition back into the work force while preventing new or worsened injuries.

Who can benefit from work conditioning/hardening?

  • Oil Field Workers
  • Police Officers
  • Firefighters
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • FBI Agents
  • Correction Officers
  • Mechanics
  • Construction Workers
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Painters
  • Delivery Drivers
  • Post office employees
  • Chefs
  • Any other professionals in strenuous or labor-intensive jobs


At the first visit, the PT will evaluate the injury and review the patient's needs in relation to their job requirements. To determine the patient's functional baseline, the therapist will need to:

  1. Determine the patient's current physical activeness (sedentary, light, medium or heavy).
  2. Determine the patient's aerobic capacity (poor, fair, average, good or excellent).
  3. Determine the patient's grip strength.
  4. Determine the patient's mobility, core and joint specific strengths in relation to their injury.
After the functional baseline is determined, an individualized program will be designed to increase the patient's current physical abilities. This will be done with medium to high intensity cardiovascular and strengthening exercises as well as stretching and mobility conditioning specifically tailored to the tasks the patient is required perform at their job. The referring physician, and any other authorized parties, will be given periodic progress updates which will document the patient's attendance, participation, and progression. Discharge orders are given when the patient either regains full function or they reach a plateau.