Most of us think of physical therapy or rehabilitation as a way to manage existing injuries or regain function after hand, wrist or arm surgery. But what about doing it before your procedure?
Mass General Brigham Sports Medicine takes an active approach to injury recovery by offering pre-rehabilitation, or prehab. The goal of prehab programs is to help patients get into the best possible shape leading up to a surgery. When you go into a procedure strong, it can take less work to recover afterwards.
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More and more orthopaedic surgeons are incorporating prehab exercise into patient treatment plans. Here are four reasons to consider prehab, plus some advice on getting started.
Prehab gives you a chance to hit the ground running after surgery. During prehab, your physical therapist (PT) will assess your current function and identify speed bumps that could potentially slow or stall your recovery.
Once those possible weak spots are identified, your PT can design a program to address them—so you can start getting stronger right now. That puts you at an advantage when you go back to rehab after surgery, especially compared to if you had spent the time completely inactive.
And some of the prehab exercises are the same after your procedure. So you can jump right back into therapy that's already familiar instead of learning a program from scratch.
Dealing with a sports injury comes with a lot of unknowns, especially when you're facing a surgery. While prehab can't guarantee a certain outcome, it ensures that you're doing everything you can to achieve the best possible recovery. And that can go a long way towards improving your injury outlook overall.
Prehab typically involves at least six weeks of exercise therapy before surgery, but longer is often better. So if you're hoping to incorporate it into your treatment, you'll need to schedule your procedure accordingly. Your orthopaedic team can help you determine the amount of time you should spend in prehab before going in for surgery.
Finding your rhythm with a rehab program can take some time. In addition to going to your physical therapy sessions, you have to stay on top of your exercises or stretches at home. You might also need to modify how you do everyday activities while your tissues heal.
Getting the hang of all that while you're fresh out of surgery can be a lot to handle. But if you're already used to PT from prehab, once your procedure happens, you're just getting back into the swing of an established routine. And that can make the road to recovery feel a whole lot easier.