By Steffen Hess, PTA, Tulsa Bone & Joint Bartlesville
When you think of surgery, do you first think about pain or pain relief? What if there was a way to have pain relief and to help your recovery process before you have surgery? For many, being told you need to have surgery can be a scary notion to accept. For those who have lived extended periods of time with pain, surgery can be a way to see some normalcy or regain their independence in the future.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapy before surgery (pre-hab) can help to improve mobility, improve the patient’s range of motion, increase stamina, help to reduce pain, improve balance, and speed up recovery time.
When entering a pre-hab program, a patient will meet with a physical therapist (PT) that will talk to them about what they should expect from not only therapy but also what they should expect after surgery. A pre-hab program will include therapeutic exercises that will help to rebuild muscles that may have been neglected or have atrophied over the years. Muscular imbalances in the body can cause increased joint pressure and premature wear and tear on the cartilage in our joints, causing pain.
Some of the exercises in a pre-hab program will also help with flexibility. Working on flexibility and rebuilding muscle will increase the patient’s mobility and will help start to alleviate pain. The PT will also give the patients tests to measure their range of motion. Pre-hab exercises before surgery can help to reduce muscle loss, decreased range of motion and may help prevent the development of excessive scar tissue. Lastly, the patient will be screened for fall risk. If the patient is at high risk for falls, physical therapists will provide exercises that safely and carefully challenge his or her balance as a way to mimic real-life situations.
There are also additional treatments that your PT can use to help to reduce your pain. Some of these treatments that can help are hot/cold treatments, taping (such as rock tape) and electrical stimulation. Although these treatments offer temporary pain relief, they can help the patient to relax which promotes healing. According to renowned physical therapist Adriaan Louw, teaching people about pain can be one of the most beneficial ways to help the patients to learn why they are in so much pain and how they can use what they have learned to help to reduce their pain. Even if prehab only lasts for a couple weeks before surgery, it can be very beneficial and help you get back to an independent lifestyle sooner.