For many of us, the reality that we will need a joint replacement or a surgical procedure in the future or near future is inevitable. Injuries can happen for any number of reasons. Some injuries may be sport related, others caused by falls or car accidents, and yet some injuries come from aging joints and arthritic changes. However the injury happens, there are several steps that should be considered prior to undergoing a surgical procedure. Many understand the importance of rehab after an injury, but fewer know the benefits of prehabilitation before a surgery.
The very thought of having surgery can be terrifying. With the rising cost of healthcare, many of us are faced with high deductibles and hefty co-payments. When we multiply this cost over multiple visits, it can add up and force some of us to deal with the daily pain until function is lost. What if there was a way to shorten the duration you were in therapy? What if, by performing what is known as prehabilitation, you could ease the entire process and improve your outcomes after and even before surgery?
Prehabilitation, or prehab, offers several benefits for patients who are faced with injuries and planning to have a surgical procedure. It is a chance to regain control and improve your quality of life. According to several studies, people who participate in prehab can shorten hospital stays, decrease overall rehabilitation duration, and improve outcomes. In addition to these benefits, prehab can also have emotional benefits: patients will improve their understanding and knowledge of what to anticipate after their surgery is performed.
In prehab, patients are given a variety of exercises that will improve function. Some exercises will increase range of motion. By increasing the joint range of motion prior to a surgical procedure the restricted capsule of a joint becomes more tolerant of movement and the surrounding tissues will lengthen, allowing the joint to move more freely. When the body is prepared prior to surgery to move as it should, it will be more prepared for movement once the procedure has been performed. Strength and flexibility are also emphasized during prehabilitation. After surgery, muscle mass and function are lost. When patients perform exercises that improve function prior to having surgery, their ability to regain that function is typically greater after the procedure.
Typically, prehab can range anywhere from two to six weeks and may even be requested by your surgeon. Depending on the patient’s availability and needs, a home exercise program may be prescribed after exercises are established and you are able to perform them properly. Performing exercises before the surgical procedure will not only improve outcomes, it can drastically improve a patient’s pain during the healing progress.
In addition to exercises, your therapist can give you guidelines to help improve the healing progress through diet and habitual changes. It may come as no surprise that eating healthier — by adding vitamins and minerals into your diet — will aid your body in healing itself. Simple diet changes, such as eating foods higher in protein to supply your body energy to increase the healing progress, will also help. Changes in habits, such as smoking, can also aid the body in recovery and lessen the chances of infection. Smoking may delay wound healing or contribute to acute vascular diseases that can complicate post-surgical outcomes.
Prehab before a surgery is similar to rehab for injuries; a physical therapist walks you through an individualized exercise program designed to help strengthen and heal. Prehab gives you the ability to improve your post-surgical outcomes and decrease your overall time spent in therapy. Make an appointment to find out how we can help ease the stress and worry you might have about an upcoming procedure.
Brown, Kent & Topp, Robert & Brosky, Joseph & Lajoie, Scott. (2012). Prehabilitation and quality of life three months after total knee arthroplasty: A pilot study. Perceptual and motor skills. 115. 765-74. 10.2466/15.06.10.PMS.115.6.765-774