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what is pre-hab

What is Pre-hab?

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTPLeave a Comment

Do you have a surgery planned soon? Is your sport physically demanding and places you at increased risk of injury? Are you worried about weakness in your joints as you age? Preventative rehabilitation may be the key for you!

Preventative rehabilitation or “pre-hab” helps condition and strengthen the body to improve recovery after surgery, speed up the recovery process and may prevent injury from occurring. Oftentimes, we group pre-hab into two main categories: Prior to surgery and injury prevention. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of both of these pre-hab programs.

Pre-hab Before Surgery1:

Prior to surgery, pre-hab is performed with the intent to make the surgery and recovery period easier. Some of the benefits from pre-hab before surgery may include:

  • Preparing the person physically and mentally for surgery
  • Optimizing successful outcomes of surgery
  • Potential to speed up the recovery time after surgery
  • Using the time waiting for surgery to remain physically active and maintaining strength throughout the entire body
  • Reducing pain. Research shows those who do pre-hab tend to have less post-operative pain and fewer complications
  • Potential to shorten hospital stay after surgery
  • Reduces swelling and maintains flexibility of injured joint

What Types of Patients May Benefit from Pre-hab Prior to Surgery:

  • Joint replacement surgeries such as knee, hip or shoulder
  • Back surgery
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Cardiac surgery
  • ACL rupture

What Can You Expect from a Pre-hab Program Prior to Surgery?

Pre-hab is individualized to each patient. Programs are designed to increase strength, flexibility, range of motion in joints, stamina and functional abilities. Oftentimes, an individual session will contain a warm up, cardiovascular component, resistance training, flexibility stretches and will address the individual needs and weaknesses of the patient and their injury or deficit. Physical therapists will also provide education regarding expectations after surgery, returning to normal home and work activities and setting goals.

Pre-hab for Injury Prevention

During injury prevention pre-hab, focuses are placed on individual weaknesses in the patient to strengthen them and help prevent possible injury.

While certain sports or professions are more at risk for injury, anyone could benefit from an evaluation to assess their risk for injury. A physical therapist can assess the individual to identify areas of weakness or asymmetries in the body which may contribute to injury risk.

What to Expect from Pre-hab for Injury Prevention:

A physical therapist will perform a full assessment of strength, flexibility and sport specific skills (ex: squatting, lunges, balance, hopping, running analysis) to determine areas of weakness or faulty mechanics which may contribute to injury risk. The therapist will then design an individualized program to address these areas to improve physical abilities while also reducing risk of injury.

Examples of Pre-hab for Workers:

  • Posture training
  • Teaching correct lifting techniques
  • Core strengthening exercises
  • Strength training for work specific tasks

Examples of Pre-hab for Athletes:

  • Running analysis
  • Throwing analysis
  • Balance testing
  • Functional Movement Screen
  • Hop testing
  • Examination of movements that are sport specific (squat, lunge, overhead throw, cutting/pivoting, flexibility assessment)

The Main Goal of Pre-hab for Injury Prevention

The main goal of a pre-hab for injury prevention program is to decrease the risk of injury. Oftentimes, this program may be performed for a longer period of time. There may not be a set time limit or end of this type of pre-hab program. A shorter round of physical therapy treatment may be performed with eventual progression to a home program. A client may return to receive another assessment or to check their progress on their strength and conditioning program after several months or a year and progress their home program.

Pre-hab is a great way to set yourself up for a successful surgery and prevent injuries. Find an Athletico location near you and set up a free assessment. Assessments are available both in-clinic and online through our telehealth platform.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Valkenet, Karin, et al. “The effects of preoperative exercise therapy on postoperative outcome: a systematic review.” Clinical rehabilitation 25.2 (2011): 99-111.

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About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

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