Work-related injuries are a losing situation for both the employee and employer.
The employee can be laid up for days, weeks or even months. During that time, the employer has a gap in his workforce that results in a loss of productivity and possibly revenue.
Industrial Safety and Rehabilitation (ISR) Institute is focused on preventing employee injuries and providing physical therapy to get injured patients back to health.
Richard Bunch, PhD started an industrial safety program while he was a professor at LSU medical school.
When he left in 1993, he developed the ISR Institute in the New Orleans area. In 1998, ISR came to Houma.
“The Institute not only provides physical therapy services but ergonomic consulting and training,” Bunch said.
Companies such as Tidewater Marine, Chevron and Halliburton call on ISR to evaluate their workplaces and produce an analysis of the work environment.
To get the entire picture of a work site, ISR brings force gages and scales to weigh and measure the tasks being performed. They’re looking for details such as how employees lift heavy objects and how hard they have to push and pull objects while on the job. Recommendations are then made suggesting modifications on equipment, tools and work areas to reduce physical stress and injury to the worker.
“We’ll go out to see what an individual does in the work environment, determine how we can make tasks easier and thereby reduce employee injuries,” said physical therapist and partner Trevor Bardarson.
ISR’s WorkSaver screening involves on site assessments to determine what the physical requirements are of a job. This allows the physical therapists to get a good understanding of what a patient will be expected to do when he goes back to work.
The program is also useful in helping companies choose the right candidate during the hiring process. Functional testing helps determine if someone is strong enough to do the job safely.
“Our focus is preventing job injuries from occurring in the first place through on site assessments and ergonomics. The other part treats injuries to get people back to work sooner,” Bunch explained.
As part of the rehabilitation process, ISR uses techniques such as McKenzie evaluations in their treatment of injuries. McKenzie evaluations use a mechanical- based assessment and treatment philosophy to get clients better without surgery.
“If somebody is having back pain and leg pain for example, we’ll take them through a very detailed assessment and we’ll try and find out what movements, actions and activities tend to bring on the pain,” Bardarson said.
Once the problem is narrowed down, the patient is introduced to techniques that will help reduce and eliminate pain. Patients are also taught what they need to do to maintain the gains made in therapy.
“We focus on educating the patient and teach them how to reduce pain during the recovery process,” Bardarson said.
Recovery time depends on the condition being treated. Typically the sooner a physical therapist sees a patient, the shorter the treatment time period is. An injury that’s been there for a long time takes more time to get positive results.
“When we see people in the acute phases of injuries, we tend to get them better faster,” Bardarson said. “An injury that’s been there for a long, long time obviously takes more time to get rid of.”
ISR’s therapists work closely with the patient’s physicians and take into account if there are surgical considerations. The therapists’ post-surgical rehabilitation may have to be on hold for a bit before physical therapy can begin.
On the other hand, Bardarson said some surgeons want their patients in therapy as early as the same day. It depends on the nature of the surgery.
If a patient can’t leave their home, they may receive home health physical therapy after surgery. Once they’ve progressed to a point where they can go to an outpatient facility, they may become ISR clients.
“What we’re trying to focus on after surgery is we want to restore normal motion, normal strength and get people back to their original lifestyle,” Bardarson said.
It’s not only the injured worker or post-surgical patient who can benefit from physical therapy. Those with neck, back, shoulder or knee pain can seek treatment.
“If somebody comes in for an evaluation and they’re a good candidate for physical therapy, we’ll send a letter to their physician explaining what the symptoms are and how physical therapy can benefit them. We make sure keep the patient’s doctor included in the treatment process,” Bardarson said.
Work conditioning is also a service of the ISR Institute. If someone has been injured and are part of the way through the recovery process, they may find they need to get into shape before going back to work.
Work conditioning simulates a lot of different tasks workers may be called on to do once they return to work. Therapy starts off with easier jobs then works up to more difficult activities to help clients regain their strength.
“We’ll have them climb stairs, shovel, lift, carry objects, push, pull – any physical task they do as part of their job. Because we’ve analyzed so many jobs, we have a very good understanding of what they’re going back to and what they’re going to be required to do,” said Bardarson.
The ISR Institute opened a new physical therapy location on Grand Caillou Road in Houma Aug. 26 with Schriever native and physical therapist Hunter Gray at the helm.
The idea behind the new location is to make getting to the clinic easier for those living on the east side of Houma.
“The Intracoastal Waterway is a barrier for a lot of people. Depending on the time of day it can take quite a while for people to get from the east side to the west side,” Bardarson explained.
“We’re hoping people will realize the Grand Caillou location is there and take advantage of the expertise they have on that side of town,” he continued.
“We’re very focused on getting people recovered as quickly as possible so they can resume their normal lifestyle whether it’s just back to their normal daily routines or whether it’s back to working offshore on a rig,” Bardarson said.
IRS Physical Therapy owners Richard Bunch (sixth from left) and Trevor Bardarson (holding child) are pictured with family, friends and dignitaries at their recent ribbon cutting ceremony for their 814 Grand Caillou Road site in Houma. COURTESY PHOTO