Pre and Post Surgical Rehab: What Is It, and Is It Really Important?


Scheduling Surgery? Don’t Forget the Pre-Operative and Post-Operative Rehab

Surgery might not be as much of a certainty in life as death or taxes, but many of us will undergo some kind of surgical procedure. If you will be scheduling major surgery in the near future, give serious thought to scheduling two other important tasks: pre-operative and post-operative rehab. Physical rehabilitation both before and after surgery can have a huge positive impact on your ability to recuperate more quickly and completely. Let’s examine what goes into these two forms of physical training and how our physical therapist can use them to optimize your surgical success.

The Sensible Strategy of “Pre-Hab”

Pre-surgical rehabilitation belongs to a category of preventative care known as “pre-hab.” The purpose of pre-hab is to get the body as ready as possible for a challenging situation. Athletes often undergo pre-hab to help them prepare for a grueling sporting event that might cause injury to weak muscles or connective tissues.

This strategy makes just as much sense for individuals who expect to undergo surgery. If, for example, you need to have a reconstructive surgery on your knee, you might engage in several weeks of physical therapy exercise to maximize the knee’s flexibility, strength and overall wellness before your surgery date approaches. This preparation allows the knee to withstand the surgery itself more easily and pave the way for a smooth recovery.

Rehabilitative Physical Therapy to Help You Heal

After you’ve had your surgery, you’ll want to schedule a course of post-surgical rehabilitation to continue the good work you started with pre-hab. It’s important to get moving again, to whatever degree is considered safe and beneficial, as soon as possible after your procedure. Post-surgical physical therapy offers a controlled environment for a swifter, less complicated recuperation by:

  • Helping muscles regain their strength and function
  • Ensuring that your joints regain their preoperative flexibility and range of motion
  • Easing your post-operative discomfort naturally by boosting blood flow and encouraging fluid drainage
  • Re-training you to use a part of your body that was unusable before the surgery
  • Discouraging the development of unwanted scar tissue (which might interfere with muscle, skin or connective tissue motion, leaving you with long-term pain and stiffness)
  • Helping you regain your balance after an extended period off of your feet

Our Physical Therapist Can Help you Have a More Successful Surgery

Our physical therapist can discuss your current health status and impending surgery with you and then figure out a detailed “battle plan” that includes both preoperative and post-operative rehabilitation. You’ll want to allow several weeks, at a minimum before your procedure so that you have time to engage in the necessary pre-hab regimen. Strength and flexibility training may feature prominently in your pre-hab.

At a reasonable interval following your surgery, you can begin your post-operative physical therapy program. In addition to strength and range-of-motion exercises, you may benefit from stability training, kinesio taping, massage therapy, cold laser therapy, cryotherapy or electrical muscle stimulation. These techniques can all complement each other to provide synergistic healing effects.

Whatever pre-surgical and post-surgical rehabilitation routine you undertake, it’s definitely worth undertaking. A study of knee construction surgery patients revealed that those patients who went through pre-hab and post-operative rehab didn’t just heal more quickly after their surgery — they continued to enjoy better long-term results (for up to two years afterward) than the patients who didn’t experience rehabilitation. If that sounds like the kind of outcome you want, you owe it to yourself to contact our physical therapist!