Work Conditioning

Saunders Therapy Centers Work Hardening Programs

Regain Function and Return to Work with Saunders Therapy Centers

Effective in Summer 2021, Saunders Therapy Centers changed our terminology and what we previously called Work Conditioning is now called “Work Hardening“.

Saunders Therapy Centers’ mission is to identify and maximize the work-related functional abilities of those injured on the job. Communication is a hallmark of our service. We work closely with the client, physician, Qualified Rehabilitation Counselor (QRC), case manager, insurance adjuster, and employer to fully understand the unique requirements of each case.

Each of our clinics has a large gym area and equipment that allows us to evaluate work-related function and simulate job-related activities for nearly any job. The clinicians who provide these services are specially trained and very experienced. They understand industry, the workers compensation system, and the unique issues involved in work-related injuries. In addition to Work Hardening, we offer functional capacity evaluation. We have clinics in Bloomington, Saint Paul, and Maple Grove in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Work Conditioning Client on Stairs

The Evaluation Process

Before beginning the program, each client participates in a 2-hour evaluation. We obtain a thorough injury history, work history, psychosocial screening and baseline functional assessment covering lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, upper extremity function, and body position capabilities. During this comprehensive evaluation, we get to know your job-related goals, and we will help you identify barriers to successful return to work.  We work together with you, your physician, and others as needed (e.g., QRC or disability case manager) to develop a custom program. Saunders Work Hardening teams customize the length of the program based on the results of your evaluation, availability of light or modified duty, and program goals. If you are currently working, but with restrictions, we structure the program to supplement what you do on the job.

Work Hardening – A Comprehensive Program

Most people who are referred for Work Hardening have physical barriers that prevent them from reaching their work goals. Examples of these are stiffness, weakness, poor balance, or poor endurance. We  stress general fitness, endurance, and work simulation, as well as specific muscle and joint work as needed. The exact combination of these physical restoration elements is customized for each client. Work simulation is one of the most important elements of your rehabilitation, and is something you may not have experienced in your previous physical therapy sessions.

In addition, many clients who have been off work for a long period of time are struggling with non-physical issues such as ongoing pain limiting their function, fear, anxiety, and even anger. If you are experiencing these challenges, we can help. In addition to all the same physical conditioning and job simulation activities, we use an evidence-based, neuroscience approach that involves pain neuroscience education (PNE) and progressive exposure to activities identified as painful/problematic. Our staff is specifically trained to distinguish between “hurt” and “harm” and we will help you know when it’s safe to work through symptoms, and how to use your body more effectively. We find that this approach of gradual exposure to painful activities has great success with long-lasting pain syndromes or fear of return to function. Most clients experience a significant increase in ability to work, even if their symptoms don’t completely go away.

Your Work Hardening team works with YOU to identify goals and barriers, and develop a comprehensive plan to help get you back to work.


Realistic, Experienced, Non-Biased, Compassionate Treatment