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Physiotherapy Before Surgery: The Benefits of Prehabilitation

Physiotherapy Before Surgery: The Benefits of Prehabilitation

Most people think of physiotherapy as a pain management approach that is typically recommended after an injury or surgical procedure, but undergoing prehabilitation, which refers to physiotherapy before surgery, also affords individuals numerous benefits. Beneficial features of prehabilitation include its ability to:

  • Improve the body's response to pain and inflammation
  • Increase mental and physical stamina
  • Help restore range of motion faster
  • Promote shorter recovery periods and hospital stays
  • Help reduce complications associated with surgery

Furthermore, prehabilitation services support enhanced strength, flexibility, and mobility in the muscles and joints before surgery. This subsequently leads to better clinical outcomes and a faster recovery. In particular, prehabilitation has proven to be effective for rotator cuff repairs, ACL and MCL reconstruction, and total hip or knee replacements as well as heart, foot, ankle, and spinal surgeries (e.g., disc replacement or spinal fusion).

Prehabilitation Promotes Health Benefits

One of the main reasons that prehabilitation promotes various types of health benefits is because patients learn beforehand how to move in a safe manner during the recovery period. Indeed, a physiotherapist will demonstrate the safest way to maneuver the body in and out of a bed, offer suggestions regarding how to use the bathroom, and provide useful tips for going up and down stairs if this becomes necessary.

If an individual will need to use devices such as crutches or a walker after the procedure, a physiotherapist will demonstrate the proper way to use these devices as well. Learning how to maintain proper body posture prior to surgery helps individuals gain an understanding of how they will need to use the rest of the body to compensate for the area (e.g., leg, shoulder, arm, back, etc.) that will be temporarily immobilized.

Physiotherapy for Prehabilitation

Prehabilitation also gives a physiotherapist the opportunity to assess an individual’s current level of flexibility and range of motion in order to develop a training routine and establish mobility goals after the surgery. A prehabilitation program typically includes balance activities, stretching and strengthening techniques, endurance exercises, proprioceptive training, and flexibility exercises. This helps condition the body by improving flexibility, strengthening the muscles and tendons, and increasing mobility. Each of these factors have been shown to reduce the amount of time an individual needs to stay in a hospital, rehabilitation facility (e.g., inpatient care), or a nursing facility after undergoing surgery. It also reduces the need for home health care services.

Prehabilitation also involves setting therapeutic goals that help the therapist and patient anticipate what steps will need to be taken to promote a faster recovery after the procedure. This also supports a more positive outlook during the difficult recovery process. In a number of cases, people who receive physiotherapy prior to surgery and shortly thereafter, achieve a greater range of motion than they demonstrated before the injury or condition that necessitated surgery. In other words, prehabilitation provides individuals with a mental and physical head start with their post-operative rehabilitation.

Mobile Physiotherapy for Surgery Patients

Some physiotherapists even provide services at home or in the workplace. This convenient ‘mobile’ option is great for people who have very busy schedules as it eliminates travel time to and from a physiotherapy office. Furthermore, the convenience of receiving prehabilitation physiotherapy services at home can help relieve mental stress and tension during a time when an individual may be worrying about the upcoming surgical procedure. Most importantly, conducting prehabilitation sessions at home allows a physiotherapist to demonstrate the proper way to get out of bed, maneuver in the shower, or navigate stairs, among other tasks that need to be performed daily. Similarly, prehabilitation sessions that are carried out at work can be used to show patients how to safely move around the office and maintain proper posture while they are performing work-related activities.

Prehabilitation is an essential therapeutic approach that:

  • Improves the body’s response to the surgical procedure
  • Supports a healthier response to post-operative pain and inflammation
  • Reduces the incidence of surgical complications, promotes shorter recovery periods
  • Improves clinical outcomes

The added benefit of being able to receive this type of therapy at home or in an office setting before surgery is another important factor that makes this approach a key part of the surgical treatment process.

Restore Full Range of Motion

People typically learn stretching and strength-training techniques after surgery or a serious injury, but receiving physiotherapy beforehand helps ensure that they will be better able to restore the bodies full range of motion in a shorter amount of time. Although prehabilitation is not an option for unexpected (e.g., emergency) surgeries, this form of therapy is generally recommended at least two weeks prior to undergoing a planned surgery. Many patients will begin prehabilitation up to 6 months prior to surgery to maximize their preoperative level of health and function.  The benefits of prehabilitation have been repeatedly proven and whenever this option is possible it should be utilized as it can help strengthen and prepare the body for an impending surgical procedure. Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment


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