Whenever we think of having surgery there are several things that spring to mind. All the prep-work such as blood work and preliminary scans, paperwork, and physicals to assess your health going into the procedure are just some of those. But one thing that doesn’t seem to jump to mind nearly as often as it should is something else altogether: prehab.
We all either know what rehab or rehabilitation therapy is, or have at least heard the term used before. Rehab consists of treatments designed to facilitate recovery from severe injuries, illnesses or diseases, or surgery. It all happens after the fact. This can range from mobility exercises to strength training to flexibility and soft tissue mobility.
Prehab, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like: therapy that takes place prior to surgery as a means of preparing the body for the strain of recovery. Typically prehab is also used in sports medicine as a means to help athletes prevent injury. As a practice, you perform certain strength-training exercises and undergo massage therapy with a physical therapist to help strengthen muscles and improve mobility. This is commonly done before orthopedic surgeries as a means of strengthening the muscles surrounding the joints about to be operated on so the recovery process is easier and faster.
There are many reasons to consider prehab ahead of your orthopedic surgery. First among them is you get the opportunity to start building a relationship with your physiotherapist early. You get to know each other, they get to know where your physical strengths and weaknesses lie and they get a better sense of what you’re capable of. You get the opportunity to learn a bit more about what to expect in the days and weeks following your procedure, and to ask all the questions that may be plaguing you. In the days and weeks leading up to surgery, anxieties run high. Getting to spend some time on a regular basis with a health care professional who knows what to expect could help reduce stress levels, allowing you to go into your surgery with less anxiety.
This is also a good time to assess other health habits like diet and lifestyle. During prehab you’ll get the opportunity to focus a bit more on your diet, cutting out certain foods and making sure you’re consuming things that have great anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce swelling. It’s also a great opportunity to cut out bad habits like smoking.
Beyond preparing the body for the impact of an orthopedic procedure, studies have shown that prehab facilitates the recovery process. There is evidence to suggest that prehab specifically helps patients cope with and overcome the pain following a procedure. In the days following surgery, patients often find themselves very debilitated by the pain post-op, as well as feeling not as mentally clear due to strong pain medication. This reduction in postoperative pain means the rehabilitation process following surgery should go smoother, and it also means that the time spent in hospital following surgery is considerably reduced.
No matter the procedure you’re having done, we at Toronto’s Midtown Physiotherapy strongly encourage our patients to consider prehab before their orthopedic surgeries. With all the added benefits there’s truly nothing to lose, and so much to gain.
Midtown Physiotherapy is a Toronto physiotherapy clinic offering client-centred and evidence-based treatment to help you get back to what you love. We offer appointments at our Yonge and St. Clair location, as well as home services for those unable to come to us.