Preventative Rehabilitation for Orthopedic Surgeries

Prehab: It's not a typo for rehab.

You may have heard the term being tossed around by orthopedic doctors and rehab professionals. Prehab, an abbreviation for preventative rehabilitation, is the use of rehabilitation principles and strength training prior to any actual injury. Prehab can also be used to improve strength and endurance prior to a surgery with the idea that the stronger you are prior to surgery, the quicker you will recover.

Today, I want to discuss how prehab can help prior to surgery. In upcoming blogs, I will discuss the benefits of prehab for athletes of all types and the active, injury-free population.

Studies have found that prehab prior to abdominal or cardiac surgery results in fewer postoperative complications, shorter hospital stay and improved quality of life. Unfortunately, research has shown prehab and pre surgical education is not necessarily beneficial for orthopedic surgeries including total joint replacements. So those six PT visits your orthopedic surgeon suggests you complete prior to surgery are not always necessary.


So why am I talking about prehab if it is not beneficial with orthopedic surgeries? Often times, when surgery is imminent, a person will feel as though there is nothing they can do but wait. Control is lost over the situation, which can be scary. Having a concrete role in your health by having specific exercises to do, can give you some control back. PT's are also helpful with answering questions, decreasing anxiety and providing a support system during a stressful time. Being proactive about your physical strength and endurance will also give you a daily exercise routine. This will make it easier to be compliant with your exercise routine after surgery.

So is just going to the gym sufficient? Probably not. The most important part of a prehab program is to strengthening the key muscles in recover while minimizing pain. Your best bet is to get in and see your physical therapist.

What will Prehab look like? First, your physical therapists will complete a full evaluation and assessment. This will include gait and posture analysis, strength and flexibility testing, as well as balance and movement screens. After, a PT will be able to customize an exercise routine that is specifically tailored to address the weakness they uncover. Expect to have a 30-45 minute routine that you can complete 3-5 times a week. These can be exercises that you can complete in your home if you do not have access to a gym.

Don't wait until the week before a scheduled surgery to meet with your PT about setting up an exercise routine.The best time to start a prehab program is as early as possible. Two to three months prior to a planned surgery is ideal. This will allow for true strength and endurance gains and develop a strong habit of exercises. If you don't do this before a joint replacement, you will still have to do it after…it's your call.

Agility Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine

(303) 773-0771