Prehab: Exercise Before Surgery

Prehab. An exercise you must do before your surgery.

Prehab, short for 'pre-habilitation',  is engaging in a structured and evidence-based exercise routine that reduces the ill effects of post-surgery deconditioning.

At PridePlus Health exercise physiology clinic, we offer the following pre-habilitation:

  • Knee Surgery Prehab
  • Shoulder Surgery Prehab
  • Hip and Back Surgery Prehab
prehab exercise before surgery pascoe vale

Whenever we limit movement, which is usually a crucial part of surgery recovery, we lose vital strength in muscles, bones and tendons. Also, limiting movement has a negative effect on cartilage - that wonderful slippery stuff that covers our joints.

Prehab is where you put in some work prior to surgery to build up a buffer, some extra strength and extra cartilage for your joints. This buffer will allow you to recover faster, return to activity faster and reduce the pain associated post-surgery as well.

What’s not to love about prehab? Nothing!

A prehab program is ideally 6 to 12 weeks in duration prior to surgery.

This allows the body time to get the most from the exercises to have muscle build (wonderfully known as 'sarcomerogenesis'), bone strength and joint quality increase.

prehab pascoe vale
prehab pascoe vale

How Does Prehab Work?

Your exercise physiologist, physiotherapist or sometimes podiatrist will develop a plan for your prehab.

Depending on the surgery, your baseline levels and your goals will influence exactly what you will do for prehab.

Prehab works as you exercise muscles, joints and bones that will be used less during and after surgery.

The idea of prehab is to maintain and increase conditioning of tissues that will become de-conditioned as a result of the surgery. 

A solid prehab period prior to surgery with appropriate intensity is important so that you can be the best version of yourself before and after surgery.

In some cases undergoing a period of prehab will enable you to defer surgery and possibly avoid it.

What About Prehab for Knee Replacement?

A good example of prehab in action is around knee replacement surgery, one of the most common procedures in Australian orthopaedics.

You need to exercise before knee replacement surgery to improve function after surgery. This means less time spent inactive and feeling sore, and more time living life the way you want to.

Muscle wastage is a major factor in a slow rehab after surgery so building and maintaining your movement, function, strength and stability of the knee joint is critical.

We all want to reduce our risk of injury and prehab exercises before surgery is one of the most important activities you can do for this.

Preventative exercise strategies designed and supervised by an exercise professional enable you to mitigate the risks of surgery.

Who Should I See for my Prehab Program?

When we consider who can offer your prehab program prior to surgery, there are a few options to think about.

  1. You can see a physiotherapist for prehab for certain conditions.
  2. For others, a podiatrist is the best person to guide you through your prehab.
  3. Overall, however, an EP (exercise physiologist) has the best combination of theoretical knowledge and exercise training skills to give you the best prehab program for you. 

Side note: if there is something exercise and health-related that an EP doesn't know, well it’s just not worth knowing! 

Your exercise physiologist will design a prehab routine for you in line with your upcoming surgery.

They will help you gain an understanding of your unique movement patterns and unlock your potential for a stronger and more resilient body.

When Should I See a Podiatrist for my Prehab?

Podiatrists are foot and ankle gurus in the health world.

If your condition or upcoming surgery is related to the foot and ankle, then your podiatrist can work with you to develop a prehab program aimed specifically for your needs. 

Conditions or surgeries that podiatrists often work with prehab are:

  • Ankle arthrodesis
  • Bunion surgery
  • Midfoot osteoarthritis
  • Hammertoe deformity corrections

As there are muscles and joints further up the body than the foot and ankle, often a podiatrist will start your prehab program and hand it over to an exercise physiologist to progress the program so that your back, hips, and upper body receive prehab as well.

What’s the Best Prehab for Me and My Pending Surgery?

The best prehab is prehab that specifically targets your needs, but also, your wants.

If you need to build strength in your quadricep muscles prior to knee surgery, but you don’t want to do this in a big box gym, then your prehab program will be tailored to this.

You might do your prehab work one-on-one with your EP, in a small group exercise class or at home in the comfort of your own surrounds. It’s up to you.

For a successful prehab program, everything you need and what you want will be considered and worked through.

As we are complex beings and what we need and want often changes, your EP will adjust your prehab program accordingly to make sure you’re always heading towards your goals.

What are Some of the Things to Expect in my Prehab Program?

Common prehab exercise routines focus on the:

  • Shoulders
  • Knees
  • Backs
  • Ankles

In addition to preparing the body for surgery and post-surgery outcomes, the routine helps maintain a healthy emotional state and gives you a focus outside of your injury/problem.

The routine gets you ready mentally and physically prepared for your rehab journey!

How Do I Get Started with my Prehab?

To get started on your prehab program, you need to book in with an EP.

If you don't have one, book online with our professional, qualified EP's HERE or get in touch with our clinic directly on (03) 9304 0500 to speak to our prehab specialists.

The initial 30min consultation will involve:

  • Discussions
  • Exercise
  • Goal setting