The Benefits of Pre-Hab
by Pamela Guevarra, PT, DPT, CCI, Cert. D.N.

AzOPT Physical Therapist

We hear it all the time – “I’m having surgery anyways.” “I’ll wait until after surgery.” “It hurts to move now so you can’t really help me.” But the truth is, pre-operative rehabilitation (or pre-hab), can be just as important as the surgery.

Prehab is an individual’s choice to participate in physical therapy before undergoing an elective surgery. Physical therapy involving personalized exercise programs before elective surgeries has proven to accelerate recovery times after elective surgeries.  Preparation is achieved through increasing overall health in anticipation of the upcoming surgery. Patients are sent to physical therapy before surgery to reduce inflammation, improve range of motion, and work on strengthening before surgery therefore easing rehabilitation and recovery for most patients.

One of the major goals of pre-hab is to calm the muscles and joints in your symptomatic areas so you can move a little better. This is done through a variety of activities. Range of motion exercises will not only relax your muscles and help you maintain flexibility, but also help avoid further loss of motion, stiffness and tightness. Pain and other symptoms are also managed with the use of modalities like moist heat, ultrasound, TENS, or laser therapy. Massage and cupping can be used to relax and promote blood flow in the area to relieve symptoms. Finally, dry needling can further accomplish many of these goals.

Another goal of pre-hab is to strengthen the area surrounding the affected joint. An individualized strength program is designed following a full evaluation. Strengthening prior to surgery has shown to accelerate post-operative recovery, i.e. shorter hospital stays, discharge home rather than skilled nursing facility, etc. This program is also modified if the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is too much after a visit.

Lastly, pre-hab physical therapy sets the tone for post-surgical physical therapy. Participating in prehab provides you control over post-operative outcomes. You will be able to speak to the physical therapist about what to expect in rehabilitation after the surgery. This interaction helps to decrease stress and anxiety of an anticipated surgical event. In a way, it allows a full holistic, mind and body, preparation of events to come. Exercise interventions may be similar pre and post-surgery therefore a sense of familiarly will be felt post-surgery during one’s rehabilitation phase.

If you are in pain, or planning an elective surgery, contact your preferred AzOPT location to schedule a pre-hab evaluation, and find out how physical therapy can help you achieve your goals.