Getting Surgery Soon?

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Preparing for Surgery? 

Here’s A How-To Guide to Prehab!   


Most of us understand that undergoing a major surgical procedure may entail a long, grueling recovery, and oftentimes, this may be the very reason why so many are fearful to go under the knife. What if there was a way we could potentially speed up the recovery process, reduce risk of complications, and improve patient outcomes? In healthcare, the concept of prehabilitation, or ‘prehab’, has been gaining traction as a proactive approach to optimizing surgical outcomes. Although post-operative rehabilitation is commonly understood as a necessary part of the recovery process, prehab is a more innovative approach which many people may not be considering but could certainly benefit from. Prehab involves preparing patients physically and mentally for surgery through targeted exercise, education and support, often focusing on increasing or optimizing patient strength, ROM, or function. In this blog post, we will explore details of what prehab consists of, discuss who should especially consider prehab, and explain the many benefits prehab offers. 

What is Prehab & Why is it Important? 

As previously mentioned, prehab refers to a proactive rehabilitation approach wherein people undergo a training period prior to surgery. Surgery can be one of the most stressful things our body undergoes, so it is important to prepare accordingly to help mitigate any additional obstacles on the road to recovery. Prehab involves a comprehensive program designed to enhance a patient’s functional capacity and overall health prior to undergoing surgery. It typically includes a combination of exercises, education, nutritional guidance, psychological support, and lifestyle modifications (e.g, alcohol/smoking cessation) tailored to the individual’s specific needs and the requirements of their impending surgery.

Exercise components of prehab may include strength training, flexibility exercises, cardiovascular conditioning and/or balance training. Nutritional counseling may involve ensuring that patients achieve optimal nutrient intakes, are maintaining a healthy weight, and are managing any pre-existing medical conditions. Education on pain management, stress reduction, self-care techniques (e.g, replacing wound dressing, walking with crutches/mobility devices, wearing a sling, etc.) are often common educational aspects of prehab programs. In culmination, these different streams of prehab may serve to prepare the patient holistically prior to undergoing surgery. Halton Healthcare prehab programs are made available to individuals undergoing total joint replacement surgery for the hip, knee, or shoulder, and include a variety of educational resources to help prepare for surgery. More so, some injury-specific pre-surgical protocols such as the Orthopedic Associates of Hartford Pre-Operative ACL Repair Protocol have been designed by medical teams for health professionals to follow when advising or guiding patients through their prehab.

Prehab is important for many reasons, including improved post-surgical outcomes, increased confidence, improved mental and physical health, and empowerment of individuals in their rehab. These will be discussed in detail later. 

Who Should Consider Prehab?

Prehab is often recommended for people undergoing a major surgery such as joint replacement, reconstruction surgery, as well as those undergoing cancer surgery or people who are preparing for a prolonged period of reduced activity (i.e. bedrest or immobilization). Although prehab could serve to benefit anybody undergoing a major surgery or period of prolonged inactivity, it is especially recommended for individuals who are older, who are frail, or who have chronic health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, which may in turn affect their ability to recover from surgery or other medical interventions. 

 Benefits of Prehab

The advantages of prehabilitation are numerous and extend beyond the immediate pre-operative period. These benefits are interrelated and may possess some overlap. Some key benefits include:

#1: Improved Post-Surgical Outcomes

Undergoing a prehab period demonstrates improved post-surgical outcomes, including shorter hospital stays, reduced rates of complications and hospital readmission, and improved functional capacity following surgery. By optimizing a patient’s physical fitness and overall health prior to surgery, prehab may help reduce the risk of post-operative complications such as infections, wound healing issues and cardiovascular events. Enhanced strength, flexibility, neuromuscular control and endurance as a result of pre-surgical training may serve to speed up the return to daily functional activities and may allow patients to meet post-surgical milestones more easily.

#2: Empowers Patients in Becoming Leaders in Their Own Recovery 

Getting familiarized with the rehab process before undergoing surgery is beneficial as it allows patients to connect with doctors, physical therapists, etc and helps them better understand what is required for a successful recovery. It also helps to empower them as active leaders in their recovery and help instill confidence in their ability to get better post-surgery. By engaging in proactive approaches like prehab, individuals undergoing surgery may demonstrate greater efficacy in performing strengthening exercises, in performing activities of daily living, and in advocating for themselves. By empowering patients to take an active role in their pre-operative preparation, prehab can have positive effects on their psychological well-being and overall quality of life. Feeling more confident and prepared for surgery can help to alleviate anxiety and promote a sense of control over the healing journey.

#3: Improves Confidence

Whether by means of feeling empowered and ready for the surgical experience through familiarizing oneself with the process, or by means of actively preparing for recovery through exercise, prehab may serve to boost patients’ confidence. Starting prehab prior to surgery may allow individuals to practice movements that may be integral parts of the post-surgical rehab protocol, and may familiarize individuals with post-op functional goals. Going into surgery with improved strength and function as well as familiarity of post-surgical milestones can help increase a patient’s confidence in their ability to successfully recover and return to their normal activities, as they may feel more physically and mentally apt to grapple with the implications of surgery.

 #4: Improves Physical & Mental Health 

Undergoing a major surgery may be one of the most stressful events that our bodies may experience. As such, these surgeries may pose significant implications to not only our physical health but our mental/psychosocial health as well! Some surgeries may entail a long road to recovery which may prevent individuals from participating in activities which bring them joy and fulfillment, and may consequently disrupt their regular routine. Prehab may improve physical health through specific targeted exercises and conditioning, which aim to optimize physical function and quality of life prior to surgery. Engaging in exercise also releases natural endorphins – feel good hormones, which may improve mood following a bout of prehab exercise. Prehab may also include mindfulness practices, stress management education and other forms of psychological support which may help individuals develop resilience, cope with stressors more effectively and maintain a positive outlook throughout the recovery.


Prehab is a proactive and holistic approach which aims to optimize surgical outcomes and patient well-being. By addressing physical, nutritional, and psychosocial factors before surgery, prehab has the potential to improve patient outcomes, promote holistic health, reduce healthcare costs, and pave the way for a smoother recovery journey to enhance the overall quality of life after surgery. As healthcare providers continue to recognize the value of prehabilitation, its integration into standard practice has the potential to transform the surgical experience for countless individuals.

Need Help Starting? Call Us Today! 

As experts in movement and rehab – both before and after surgery, we are here to help you with all of your prehab needs! Let us help you prepare for surgery and get a headstart on your road to recovery today!

Visit us or call us at 519-942-8884 today to book with your neighborhood wellness clinic and let our team of specialized health professionals help you get back to being you!

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