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  • Writer's pictureMatt Kurz PT, DPT

The Truth About Prehabilitation

Why you Should Exercise Prior to your Joint Replacement


It is no secret that postoperative joint replacement therapy is challenging. Surgery places a great deal of stress on the body and is quickly followed by intensive physical therapy to regain range of motion, strength, and mobility with your new joint. Many go into surgery thinking this postoperative stress is inevitable, however there is an easy preoperative fix: prehabilitation. Prehabilitation, or prehab, is a combination of strength, gait, balance, and/or resistance training aimed at maintaining or improving functional mobility prior to surgery in order to improve ease/rate of recovery after surgery.


If you are suffering from a painful joint, you have probably also noticed surrounding muscle atrophy (decrease of muscle size and strength), soft tissue tightness, and decreased range of motion of the irritated joint. And while you are likely acutely aware of the pain and decreased function this irritated joint is causing, you may not be thinking about what this will mean postoperatively. It is important not to get fooled into thinking that a joint replacement will be a fix all! The only issue surgery addresses is the joint itself. Your muscle weakness, range of motion deficits, balance and gait abnormalities will still have to be addressed following surgery. Prehab is designed to give you a jump start on these issues before surgery which will greatly reduce the stress joint replacement surgery will have on your body as well as improve your ability to more quickly return to doing the things you love.


Prehabilitation exercises do not have to be physically demanding and should not increase pain, but should be challenging enough to maintain or promote muscle strengthening, tissue elasticity, and improve balance/gait mechanics. Your physical therapist will provide you with specific, appropriate, and modifiable exercises to address your areas of concern. You may even experience the additional benefit of some pain reduction. Prehab is also a great time to ask your therapist about what to expect after surgery as well as any assistive devices you may need. Ideally exercises should be started 4-8 weeks prior to the date of surgery, however its never too late to start. A little exercise is better than none!


To schedule your prehabilitation appointment, reach out to us by clicking here.


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