Prehab. Why you need physical therapy before surgery.

Apr20th 2020

If you have a surgery coming up, you probably have a long list of to-do’s and things to prepare before your operation. But one important thing to add to that list is scheduling a consultation with a physical therapist!

Many people think that physical therapy is only needed after their surgery. But preoperative physical therapy, sometimes called “prehabilitation,” is hugely beneficial in more ways than one. Check out the top three reasons to consult with a physical therapist before heading to the operating room.

3 Benefits of Preoperative Physical Therapy

1. Preoperative PT can reduce the amount of care you’ll need postoperatively.

Research shows that “prerehabbing” for your surgery with a physical therapist before undergoing a hip or knee replacement can significantly reduce the amount of professional care you’ll need postoperatively. For example, the American Physical Therapy Association references a 2014 study from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery which showed that just one or two sessions of preoperative physical therapy reduced the use of post-acute care services by nearly 30%.

As you can imagine, reducing the amount of professional postoperative care you need saves you both time and money. In the above-mentioned study, the researchers estimated that preoperative PT saved patients an average of $1,000.

2. Prehabilitation may minimize post-surgical pain.

While the research is a bit inconclusive on this topic, we’ve found that many of our patients report a better control over their post-surgical pain if they’ve come to work with us for at least one or two sessions before going under the knife. Pain can be a significant issue for people following their surgeries because it may limit their function, reduce their ability to tolerate post-operative physical therapy, impair their sleep, and even make it difficult for them to safely navigate their environment. Pain can also cause a lot of psychological stress, which may even slow wound healing.

We’d certainly like to see some more research studies investigating how pre-operative physical therapy helps control and reduce post-operative pain, including studies with larger sample sizes to really capture the effects. But in the meantime, we’re happy to see that physical therapy services designed to prepare a patient for the demands of surgery help many of our patients experience less discomfort postoperatively and feel less reliant on pain-relieving drugs.

3. Working with a physical therapist will help you go into your surgery as strong and healthy as possible.

Perhaps the main underlying benefit of prehab with a PT is that it can effectively “tune up” your body so that you go into your procedure with greater strength, endurance, and stamina. For example, we teach our patients exercises that can strengthen specific joints and muscle groups that may be affected by the operation, which may help these areas recover faster.

Going into a surgery as strong as possible also reduces the risk of surgical complications. Plus, a pre-operative physical therapy session or two can also give you a chance to practice the post-operative exercises you’ll be expected to do during your rehabilitation, learn how to move with any new weight-bearing precautions or mobility restrictions you’ll have after surgery, and overall make you a better educated and more well-informed patient. All told, this can spell a faster recovery and better outcomes!

Are you preparing for surgery? To maximize your outcomes, accelerate your recovery, and keep your surgery as cost-effective as possible, contact our physical therapy clinic today to schedule a preoperative appointment with a physical therapist.

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