When it comes to physical therapy, many people think of its usefulness in recovering from surgeries. For some, it can even be used as an alternative to surgery, providing them an opportunity to heal their body without having to undergo an operation. But even if you still have to go under the knife, did you know of its usefulness in preparing your body for what comes after?
Pre-surgical rehabilitation, also known as preventative rehab or “prehab”, is quickly becoming the standard for elective orthopedic surgeries. Many patients facing major orthopedic surgeries like hip and knee replacements are prime candidates for this specialized form of physical therapy. But what exactly is it, and why do you need it? Let us explain:
What is Prehab therapy?
To put it simply, prehab is preventative rehabilitation. Following most orthopedic surgeries, patients are prescribed a series of physical therapy visits to help restore their lost strength, balance, and range of motion. In contrast, prehab therapy works on improving your movement, flexibility, and strength before your surgery.
During your prehab, our physical therapists will assess you for any deficits in strength, stability, range of motion, and balance that may impede your ability to recover from surgery. We use a whole-body approach, as a balanced body will be able to recover more efficiently. They will then teach you exercises that address these issues, many of which you will later perform during your rehabilitation after surgery. These exercises provide two very unique benefits:
- Your body will be stronger going into surgery, which means it will also be stronger coming out of surgery and better equipped to handle it
- Your body will retain muscle memory of these movements, making the rehab process a smoother transition
Who Needs Prehab?
Prehab is a good idea for practically everyone. Whether you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior or just want to stay active, you can be at risk for muscle imbalances, instability and weakness, which can lead to injuries. Cyclists, for example, are commonly at risk for Achilles tendonitis and tight hips, so exercises that address these areas can be helpful. Or if you sit at a desk all day, you might have a weak core that could benefit from a prehab regimen designed to help increase core strength and stability.
Research shows that it can even be beneficial to complete a prehab program before a joint replacement surgery or before undergoing chemotherapy. A study in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery showed that physical therapy before total hip or total knee replacement surgery could reduce the need for post-operative care by almost 30 percent.
Why is Prehab Therapy so Important?
Prehab provides the opportunity for you as a patient to have a role in controlling your recovery. While we cannot know the outcome of any surgical procedure in advance, we do know that patients who move better, feel better, and are stronger, tend to do better.
Not only does prehab prepare your body for surgery, it also helps prepare you mentally for what’s to come. Prehab is an opportunity for you to become acquainted with those that will be guiding you through the rehabilitation process after surgery. It also provides you time to ask questions about the recovery process, increasing your confidence in achieving a full recovery.
For patients worried about saving their insurance-covered PT visits until after surgery, we have you covered – our therapists will customize an exercise program just for you that can be completed at home, saving your visits for when you need them most.
While prehab is a relatively new process, the benefits are substantial. Not only does it prepare your body for your upcoming surgery, it also gives you an opportunity to prepare yourself mentally and put your mind at ease when it comes to surgical outcomes. Instead of making the choice to go into your procedure with little to no knowledge of what’s to come, allow our therapy team to give you the help you need to get through this difficult time. For patients that are interested in learning more about the benefits of prehab, reach out to your surgery team and ask them if prehab is right for you!