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What is "prehab" and why is it so important?

Prehab, short for pre-habilitation, is known as a proactive physical therapy approach geared towards setting your body up for a successful recovery after surgery.

Prehab exercises are those that focus on improving your range of motion, flexibility, and strength in the weeks leading up to surgery.  It has been shown to improve function not only before surgery but also after. This can potentially decrease the length of a patient's hospital and improve long-term function and quality of life! Half of a successful surgical outcome is due to the surgeon, and the other half is due to the patient’s commitment to recovery – starting with prehab. 

At least 24 hours after knee-replacement surgery, for example, you will be expected to be walking (using crutches or a walker) to the bathroom or in the hallway.  Before you are eligible for discharge from the hospital, you must be able to go up and down 2-4 steps and walk 50-100 feet. Some people even have out-patient joint replacement surgery and need to be able to get in and out of the car and into bed at home the same day of their surgery. The improved strength that you gain from prehab can help you achieve these milestones. Studies show that knee and hip replacement surgery patients who had participated in physical therapy, strength training, and flexibility exercises for six weeks prior to surgery reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by up to 73%. 

At Judice Sports & Rehab, we know a balanced body will be able to recover more efficiently, getting you back to the joys of life as quickly as possible. During prehab, our physical therapist will assess you for any deficits in strength, stability, range of motion, and balance that may impede your ability to recover from surgery. We will then teach you exercises that address these issues, many of which you will later perform during your rehabilitation after surgery. These exercises provide two unique benefits:

  1. Your body will be stronger going into surgery, which means it will also be stronger coming out of surgery and better equipped to handle the difficult recovery period
  2. Your body will retain muscle memory of these movements, making the rehab process a smoother transition. 

Prehab provides the opportunity for you to have a role in controlling your recovery, preparing you both mentally and physically for the road ahead. We know that patients who move better, feel better, and are stronger, tend to physically recover more efficiently.  But, it also helps prepare you mentally for what’s to come. Prehab is an opportunity for you to become acquainted with those that will be guiding you through the rehabilitation process after surgery. For anyone that is interested in learning more about the benefits of prehab, reach out to us here at Judice Sports & Rehab and ask us if prehab is right for you!

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For more detailed information, you can contact us or check out a few of our resources.

Snow R, Granata J, Ruhil AV, et al. Associations between preoperative physical therapy and post-acute care utilization patterns and cost in total joint replacement. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2014;96(19):e165.

Brown B, Brosky JA, Topp R. Lajoie, AS. Prehabilitation and quality of life three months after total knee arthroplasty: a pilot study. Perceptual & Motor Skills. 2012;115(3):765-774.

Prehabilitation in preparation for orthopaedic surgery. Ditmyer MM, Topp R, Pifer M. Orthop Nurs. 2002;21:43–51

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