Why Consider Pre-Surgical Rehabilitation


Prehabilitation "Pre-hab" and The Role of Exercise Before Surgery

It is well known that after having surgery, there will be some form of rehabilitation. Most people expect it. Doing post-surgery rehabilitation is vital to recovering in a healthy and safe way. However, did you know that there is also something called pre-surgical rehabilitation or “pre-hab” that has recently been gaining traction and public awareness?

Typically, there is a time leading up to surgery where the area in need is inflamed, weak, and vulnerable. If the area is already in a fragile state, surgery, although will fix the problem, will also add to the inflammation and weakness immediately after the procedure. Just like you wouldn’t run a full marathon without any training or preparation, you shouldn’t go into surgery without preparing your body for it and giving it the necessary tools for post-op success.


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Okatie | Bluffton | Hilton Head


What is “Prehabilitation?”

Prehabilitation is an exercise and therapy regimen created by a medical doctor or physical therapist that is recommended to begin six weeks leading up to having surgery, although the longer you can do it prior, the better.


How Does It Work?

Patients will perform a variety of water- and land-based strength training, and aerobic and flexibility exercises that are meant to strengthen muscles, improve blood flow, and lessen inflammation in the surgery area. It is also common for the therapist you are working with to give you take home exercises to go through a few times a day. These exercises are meant to minimize the time it will take for you to recover post-op. Pre-Hab has shown such positive results that many surgeons are big proponents of their patients participating in some form of pre-hab before surgery.

Vonda Wright, MD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sports Medicine, once stated that; “Fifty percent of outcome success is due to the surgeon, and the other 50 percent is due to the patient’s commitment to recovery – starting with pre-hab.”


Some Simple Guidelines for a Pre-surgical Rehabilitation Program:

  • Consult with Your Surgeon - In some cases, the injury may be too extreme to handle the typical pre-hab exercises, so always consult with your physician before starting any pre-hab plan.

  • Start Slowly - The area needing surgery is likely already irritated and weak. This is no time to show off at the gym. These exercises are meant to aid, not harm you further or cause another problem, so take it slow when starting.

  • Start as Early as Possible - The longer you have to strengthen and prepare the area, the quicker and more relaxed your recovery will be.

  • Increase Intensity if You are able - If you are already a physically active and in-shape person, you can discuss with your therapist increasing the intensity of your exercises. Make sure to stop increasing immediately if it causes any extra discomfort or pain.


In the past, most rehabilitation has been focused solely on the recovery period post-surgery. However, more and more evidence has been coming to light at the importance and effectiveness that pre-hab can have on the patient. When you work with a physical therapist before having your surgery and utilize their pre-surgery rehabilitation plan, you can expect to have better and faster results post-op. These exercises create the strong foundation your body needs to kick-start its recovery.


Physical Therapy and “Pre-Hab”

Not only giving you exercises, but your therapist will also help you familiarize yourself with walking aids or supportive instruments in case they may be needed. They will also show you the importance of proper breathing techniques and the importance of a range of motion in the muscles and joints. All of these combined will reduce the stress on the body as it recovers and can even lessen the apprehension and anxiety you may be feeling before your surgery.


Regain Independence

If you or someone you know is preparing for surgery in the near future, contact us at Horizon Rehabilitation and talk with one of our licensed physical and occupational therapists about the in-depth programs we offer for pre-hab therapy.


Contact a convenient location near you!
Sun City | Bluffton | Hilton Head

Mike Tucker