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Articles by our Physical Therapists

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11. Pre-Habilitation

Pre-Habilitation

Pre-habilitation, or pre-hab for short, is an exercise therapy program one starts prior to having surgery.  Rehabilitation differs as it is an exercise therapy program performed for up to three months following surgery.  Most people know to expect physical therapy after surgery, but very few give a thought to the benefits of physical therapy before.

A recent study found that knee and hip-replacement surgery patients that completed six weeks of exercises (strength, aerobic and flexibility activities) prior to surgery reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by 73 percent.

If you are having surgery on your leg, doing exercises to strengthen your upper body will help you manage crutches or a walker after surgery.  Flexibility stretches for any joint pre-surgery will assist with recovery of motion following surgery, and strength-building activities will improve functional mobility skills such as transfers.  Ask your doctor and/or physical therapist about the exercises that will be prescribed after surgery in order to practice and familiarize yourself with them so they will be easier to perform postoperatively.

A pre-operative discussion with your doctor can supply information such as length of stay to expect in the hospital, type(s) of medicines or anesthesia to anticipate, and frequency of blood draws following surgery (if any). 

Preparing your home for your return following surgery will also streamline your discharge from the hospital, as well as give you a measure of peace.  Depending on the type of surgery, you may require medical equipment/aids such as a shower seat, commode, walker, crutches, and/or a brace or sling.  Contacting your physical or occupational therapist for a home safety evaluation prior to surgery can assist in obtaining the proper pieces of equipment and making it safe for your return.

The two months leading up to surgery are just as important as the two following, and an individualized pre-hab program can help you return home faster and with fewer complications.

Written by Jodi Flanagan, MPT

Published July 2011

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