Prehabilitation: Incorporating Physical Therapy Prior to Surgery

Image Credit: University of St Augustine for Health Sciences

One of the best ways to have a successful surgery is to prepare for it, both mentally and physically. From a mental standpoint, it is useful to have all the necessary details of the surgery organised, and to have all the information and equipment that will be necessary for a smooth hospital experience. 

From the physical perspective, the healthier you are as a patient prior to your surgery, the higher your odds of success. For some orthopaedic cases, such as a torn ligament, patients are currently encouraged to start physical therapy before the surgery. The activity of exercising will strengthen the body, and make it more resilient to surgical conditions.  Since surgery is an intense experience, it is important to ensure that you are at your peak, to withstand the recovery interim. 

One of the best ways to prepare for surgery is to start the process of working critical muscles. Two of the categories of exercises that are often incorporated are stretches, and endurance exercises. The former helps the body to be more flexible, and the latter works on your cardiovascular system, and ensures that you have a good circulation. According to medical statistics, the recovery rate is higher in patients with a pre-surgery exercise routine. Patients who exercise also have fewer post surgical complications. 

A few key benefits to incorporating physical therapy in your pre-surgical routine, are outlined below: 

  1. Faster Healing 

Surgical intervention involves the incision of a person’s skin, muscles and ligaments, in order to access the treatment area. After surgery, the patient has to fully heal, and scar tissue can form around the surgical site. Physical exercise keeps the skin well vasculated, and optimises healing of the skin. Scar tissue formation is found to be improved in patients who conduct regular exercise. 

  1. Faster Recovery Time

Modern humans value time and efficiency. According to medical statistics, pre-operative physical therapy is found to improve recovery time in patients by up to 29%. If patients have to be in hospital for recovery, or seek external care, the cost savings from the activity will be significant. The pre-operative exercises can be applied to the post surgical experience, and improve the patients recovery rate. Attributes such as improving flexibility, adjusting to braces such as walkers, and identifying the best resting positions, will be key to optimum healing. 

  1. Surgery Prevention

One of the best medical adages is “Prevention is better than cure”. While physical therapy aims to prepare patients for surgery, in some instances it can induce healing, and prevent surgery. The aim of physical therapy is to restore movement and function through the body. Via movement and nutrition, the body can actually regulate its own functions and heal itself. Success in healing ligament based injuries via pre-surgery physical therapy has actually been achieved. 

Preventative action is one of the key ways to succeed in any endeavour. For orthopaedic surgical conditions, physical therapy is proving to be quite effective as a means to improve post-surgical recovery. The body, once provided with the appropriate conditions, will actually heal itself. 

Article Reference: 

  1. Ohio State University: Physical Therapy 
  2. Elliot Physical Therapy: Physical Therapy Prior to Surgery

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Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

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