Most of us know that physical therapy is an essential follow-up to many orthopedic surgeries. A high-quality PT program helps with pain management, recovery, and healing. But there’s growing evidence that physical therapy before joint replacement surgery can also be beneficial. Studies show that building strength before surgery can speed recovery after the fact. Pre-surgery PT, affectionately known as “prehab,” is an increasingly popular approach, helping patients get a jump start on healing.
Will Pre-Surgery Physical Therapy Help My Recovery?
Studies show that patients who build strength before surgery have better outcomes. A few weeks of physical therapy before a joint replacement can have dramatic benefits. For example, a 2011 study showed that preparing for knee replacement surgery with prehabilitation boosted patients’ strength and ability to perform functional tasks. Patients in the study had 4 to 8 weeks of PT, including resistance training, flexibility, and step training three times a week. Prehab can help patients:
- Shorten hospital stays
- Regain mobility more quickly
- Prepare (both mentally and physically) for critical post-op physical therapy
- Reduce the likelihood of inpatient rehab
How Can Physical Therapy Before Surgery Keep Me Out of Inpatient Rehab?
A 2006 study showed that six weeks of prehab before knee or hip replacement reduced the need for inpatient rehab by 73 percent. The study also showed that patients who completed pre-surgery PT were more likely to walk more than 50 feet when discharged from the hospital. According to the study’s authors, prehab was beneficial to both physical condition and mindset. “[Results] suggest that the increase in strength was due to a combination of increased neuromuscular coordination and a reduction of fear about anticipated pain associated with increased muscular effort,” the study said.
Who Can Benefit from Prehab?
We often recommend pre-surgery PT for knee, hip, and shoulder replacements. Patients can also benefit from prehab with ACL/MCL reconstruction, spinal surgery, and hand, and wrist surgeries.
Will I Still Need Physical Therapy After Joint Surgery?
You still need physical therapy after surgery for knee, hip, or shoulder replacement–whether or not you’ve gone through prehab. Getting moving shortly after surgery is the best approach, and PT for several weeks following surgery is a must. The same kinds of strength, mobility, and range of motion exercises that help you prepare for surgery can also help you heal and recover. The physical therapy team at Countryside Orthopaedics & Physical Therapy is one of the best in the region. Whether your doctor recommends prehab or a traditional physical therapy program following surgery, our team can help get you moving again and work to treat and prevent pain without drugs. Be sure to talk with your physical therapist (before and after surgery) about your lifestyle, activities, and goals. Whether you’re an athlete looking to return to competition or simply walking pain-free again, our pre and post-surgery physical therapy programs can help you achieve your goals.