Many times post-surgery rehabilitation will be prescribed by your surgeon after surgery, but physical therapy performed pre-surgery can be just as effective as a means to ensure quick and complete recovery. Clinical research shows that patients who are strong before surgery are often stronger after surgery than those who do not prepare with physical therapy and can return to their normal activities faster. Pre-surgery strengthening allows you to recover more quickly, with less pain and a shorter rehabilitation period.
There is mounting evidence that pre-surgery rehabilitation and exercise is effective for a wide variety of surgical procedures. It may not surprise you that exercise will help you prepare and recover for something like a knee replacement or a shoulder surgery, but you may be surprised to find that it is equally effective in abdominal and thoracic surgeries. While pre-surgery strengthening cannot replace post-surgical therapy, it can reduce the risks associated with major surgeries of nearly every variety by preventing the need for acute care after the procedure.
Tom Stith, DPT, OCS states, “I find that pre-surgery strengthening is particularly effective for my Total Knee Replacement and Total Hip Replacement patients.” Surgery is often performed because an area is already injured, weak, or inflamed. If pre-surgery rehabilitation is not included in the overall treatment plan, this initial weakness will only be amplified after surgery. The inclusion of a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist (OCS) in a pre-surgical strengthening program allows you to strengthen the area so that surgery is more comfortable and recovery begins before surgery. In short, overall therapeutic treatment and rehabilitation time is significantly reduced by implementing pre-surgery rehabilitation.
Muscles, bones, and joints that are in optimal condition from pre-surgery rehabilitation experience less of the inevitable muscle loss and joint stiffness experience after surgery, improving the chances of quicker and less painful post-surgery recovery. A carefully planned exercise routine can reduce inflammation and improve blood circulation to the affected area, consequently improving mobility and reducing pain. Pre-surgery rehabilitation can also promote correct movement patterns to minimize post-surgical habits like leaning and uneven weight-bearing.
Pre-surgery rehabilitation can provide a wide variety of benefits, including:
- Better overall health and fitness
- Reduction of pain and inflammation
- Mental preparation for surgery
- Improved range of motion
- Increased muscular control of the injured area
- Preparation for post-surgery therapy
Pre-surgery rehabilitation can do more than just improve your health and quality of life. Studies have shown that as few as 1 to 2 sessions of pre-surgery physical therapy can reduce the overall post-surgery care needed by 29% for patients receiving total hip or knee replacement. In addition to saving time and reducing pain, pre-surgery rehabilitation for hip and knee replacements generally saves patients money by reducing the need for critical care and prolonged post-surgical care. (To learn more about this study, read the full article on the APTA website.)
Before starting a pre-surgery exercise plan, be sure to consult your doctor, and always use a physical therapist to make sure you are not doing damage. If you have an upcoming surgery and think pre-surgery rehabilitation is right for you, talk to your doctor and then call Tom Stith, DPT, OCS and his expert colleagues at Move Better Physical Therapy to get started!