By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, OCS
There is a new word that we are seeing more and more on a doctor’s prescriptions when patients come in for their first evaluation with us: prehabilitation. Basically, people are being advised to begin physical therapy before their impending surgeries in an effort to make sure that the patient is as prepared as possible before going under the knife. This preparedness involves knowing what their post-operative precautions will be, getting their range of motion and strength as good as possible before the surgery, and being more psychologically prepared for how they might feel after surgery. Recent studies have shown that the effects of prehabilitation are not only going to decrease medical costs by up to 29% following a surgery, but that they are also going to increase the patient’s quality of life.1,2
One of the few things that we dislike as a physical therapists is seeing people in excruciating pain after they have undergone surgery, especially if they weren’t expecting that amount of discomfort. Being able to educate our patients about expectations after surgery well before they head into the operating room not only makes our jobs easier in the long run, but also helps to mentally prepare our patients for what they might feel so that they are not in shock during the week or two after surgery when they resume PT. As we often have to tell patients, surgery is “trauma” for the body, although the outcome is usually better than their pre-surgery level and well-worth it. Unfortunately, however, it is rarely a quick fix and being prepared for the recovery process is integral to feeling as good as possible afterward. We have seen the positive effects of prehabilitation first-hand with our patients and it is exciting to know that there is continuing evidence to support it for cost-saving and, more importantly, patient recovery and satisfaction.1,2
Coming in to see a specialized physical therapist for prehabilitation before surgery does not always require a physician referral, so don’t hesitate to call us to find out what your pre-operative visit would require and schedule an evaluation appointment.