What is Prehabilitation?

Prehabilitation, or “Pre-hab”, is a proactive measure for patients scheduled for orthopedic surgeries. A surgeon or primary care physician will often prescribe patients “prehab” to help prepare them for physical and lifestyle changes associated with surgeries.

Studies show that patients who move better, feel better, and feel stronger tend to do better. This article can be useful for patients considering or expecting orthopedic surgery. You can also find some specific tips at the end of each section about some common spine, knee, shoulder, and foot surgeries.


What are the benefits of prehabilitation?

‍Patients who attend physical therapy before surgery can improve physiological, mental, nutritional, and lifestyle health. Orthopedic surgery can be thought of as a marathon, meaning the preparation put before actually running the race will ultimately help your overall performance during and after it.

Physical Therapy Before Surgery

Tip #1: Timing, Type, Setting, and Costs

When considering a prehab program prior to surgery, important things to consider are timing, type, setting, and costs.  

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services published a study related to patient outcomes of major joint replacement surgeries (Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA) and Total Hip Arthroplasty (THA). The evidence showed that when your rehabilitation occurs (timing), what the training consists of (type), where your rehab occurs (setting), and out-of-pocket or insurance costs are the most important things to consider for patients, surgeons, and therapists.

Physiological benefits of prehabilitation

If your surgeon has prescribed physical therapy prior to surgery, you can improve the function, strength, and conditioning of your body many weeks ahead.  A physical therapist can evaluate you and come up with a treatment plan that includes aerobic exercise, strengthening, and stretching, and pain management.

Improve Recovery After Knee Replacement

Studies show aerobic exercises such as low-impact cycling or walking as an effective nonpharmacological option for patients undergoing total joint replacements. Patients can often expect a decrease in pain symptoms, joint tenderness, and better overall function for daily activities.

Tip #2: Getting Prehab

The best way to get started with prehab is to work individually with a physical therapist.

If you are dealing with insurance issues and the number of appointments available, we recommend talking with your doctor, surgeon, or local physical therapy clinic. They may be able to direct you to some free prehab education classes or come up with a treatment plan that can be done at home.

Mental benefits of prehabilitation

‍Mental health is one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of orthopedic surgery. It is natural for patients to feel stressed and anxious before surgery. Attending physical therapy can be extremely useful to help get you prepared mentally and feel confident.

Tip #3: Make use of downtime

It is common for patients to wait multiple weeks before entering the operating room, this time can be used to get acquainted with your physical therapy clinic, your therapist, and surgical procedure. Learning how to modify daily activities, transferring positions, and using crutches or walkers can help reduce your hospital stay and home care costs.

Nutritional support from prehabilitation

Nutrition plays an important role when recovering from orthopedic surgery. Physical Therapists can assist you with fine-tuning your diet to improve blood circulation, manage glucose uptake and insulin resistance while reducing oxidative damage to blood vessels.

Daily Nutrition For Orthopedic Surgery

Tip #4: Avoid high-fat meals

Adults expecting an orthopedic surgery of any kind diets should limit fat intake to less than 35% of their daily calory intake. A high-fat meal close to surgery can increase the risk of blood clots and inflammation at the surgical site.


Lifestyle support from prehabilitation

Physical therapy can help patients adjust to various lifestyle changes associated with surgery recovery. Helping you prevent fall-related injuries, work from home tasks, and things like sleeping or showering.

Tip #5: Home Preparation For Knee and Hip Surgery

Move things you use frequently above waist level, prepare food ahead of time, and make sure your bed, armchair, car, and toilet seat are at safe levels before you leaving the hospital.

Question about Prehabilitation?

Balanced Physical Therapy is dedicated to providing everyone an equal opportunity for a full recovery. Contact us with any questions you have about insurance, treatments, and the rehabilitation process.

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