Brief Summaries of the Definitions of Work Restrictions, Capacity & Limitation

23 August 2012 / California Workers Compensation / Comments Off on Brief Summaries of the Definitions of Work Restrictions, Capacity & Limitation

The following is a summary to clarify the often confusing terms of work functional restrictions and limitations. The summary below is a summary review from “A Physician’s Guide to Return to Work”, by authors James B. Talmage, MD and J. Mark Melhorn, MD, AMA Press, 2005. Chapter 9.

This summary is designed to clarify the confusion that a primary treating physician often faces in making determinations in return to work and employer recommendations. In my experience I have found a great deal of confusion over the terms “restriction”, “capacity” and “tolerance”.

Many of these terms are used interchangeably, sometimes on the same form. A firm understanding of these terms and definitions will help the medical providers and employers avoid unnecessary confusion, communicate more clearly, and improve overall satisfaction with clinical service and instructions.

Work Restriction:

A risk poses a life threatening or potential serious injury if not followed to the worker or co-worker. It does not imply an inability to perform a certain task or activity.

Work Limitation:

A limitation implies that a certain activity or function cannot be performed due to an indentified underlying condition supported by objective medical and/or imaging findings.

Work Tolerance:

A tolerance is a subjective report of symptoms that preclude the worker from performing a certain task or activity. A work tolerance is neither a restriction or a limitation, and determination can prove to be elusive inconsistent between medical providers. Tolerance represents the majority of challenge for providers by virtue of lack of objective findings.

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