Going To Have Surgery? Think Prehab First
Preparing to go under the knife is filled with a lot of to-dos. Scheduling your surgery date, going to pre-op surgery appointments, and talking with others about their surgery experiences. A main concern for everyone is—how long will it take me to bounce back after surgery? What many people don’t know is that going to physical therapy before surgery increases their odds of a having a successful outcome and quicker recovery. 50% of having success post-surgery is due to the surgeon—and the other 50% is the patient’s commitment to recovery. This starts with pre-rehabilitation physical therapy, or “prehab”. One study looked into patient outcomes between groups of patients that underwent ACL surgery. The patients that participated in prehab had better knee strength and range of motion at 12 weeks. On average, those patients returned to sports 2 months before the group who didn’t participate in prehab.
Get In Shape Before Surgery
Research has shown that prehab before surgery helps patients regain their baseline strength levels faster. Those who participated in a prehab physical therapy program were able to stabilize their pain, increase strength, and improve their range of motion before surgery. Therefore, after surgery, the only way to go is up. Prehab is a physical therapy program that can be started 2 to 6 weeks prior to surgery depending on the type of operation you’re having. Patients normally expect physical therapy after their operation. Therefore, prehab may feel like a new concept. Yet, the goal of both prehab and postoperative physical therapy are the same.
Physical therapy for prehab focuses on increasing strength and flexibility of the muscles in your surgery area. After surgery, your muscles can become weaker and stiff. If your muscles are stronger and more flexible before surgery, the post-surgical effects can be less severe.
Here are some surgeries that could highly benefit from prehab:
• Hip and knee surgeries or replacements
• Rotator cuff repair
• ACL/MCL reconstruction (if not completely torn)
• Neck and back surgery
Recovering successfully means having better strength and range of motion going into surgery. For example with knee surgery, you’ll typically need quadricep strength to balance and move your knee joint after surgery. By beginning to build up quad strength before surgery, you’ll see greater knee stability and faster recovery. Prehab extends to preparing you to use assistive devices like a walker or crutches post-surgery. For example, you might need to be shown how to navigate obstacles such as stairs or curbs with crutches and learn how to move with them without putting strain on your injured limb.
The Sooner, The Better
Anyone can elect to go to prehab physical therapy before surgery. If your condition doesn’t require immediate surgery and is scheduled ahead of time, prehab is definitely an option for you. There’s usually a waiting period prior to any surgery to accommodate facility and surgeon schedules, your schedule, preoperative visits, and insurance clearance. Take advantage of this time to be as physically prepared for your surgery as possible. Prehab can and will allow you to have better functional outcomes and the ability to start moving again faster.