pre-surgical physical therapy improves outcomesMake no mistake – joint replacement is a major operation. However, since it’s not usually an emergency situation, you can plan for it and work it into your schedule.

This is an important fact to remember because it gives you an opportunity to work up to the surgery with some pre-surgical physical therapy.

Depending on the patient and the required surgery, pre-surgical physical therapy can help shorten your post-op hospital stay, as well as greatly reduce your odds of needing post-surgical discharge to an in-patient rehab facility by as much as 73%.

As an outpatient physical therapist, I’ve also noticed that my patients who engage in pre-surgical PT have a much better go of things with their post-surgical PT. Their results are better and they have an easier time adapting to the post-op PT, which can be a difficult, frustrating experience.

Pre-surgical PT is totally individualized and designed to enhance a patient’s stamina prepare him physically for surgery, as well as the post-op PT, making the post-op PT more effective. Pre-surgical PT can include:

  • Exercises specific to maximizing range of motion
  • Exercises specific to maximizing pain-free strength
  • Education on what to expect following surgery and what to avoid
  • Education on pain management and post-surgical exercises
  • Teaching proper form and exercise technique to ensure safe performance and reduce risk of post-op injury
  • Education on contraindications and risk factors following surgery

Additionally, pre-surgical PT helps prepare the patient for the mental rehabilitation. If they are already familiar with the movements and the exercises, that puts less anxiety on the patient. It allows patients to focus on getting the movement right without being distracted with the usual post-surgical issues, like fear of tearing a surgical wound, working with a swollen, painful joint, or dealing with medicinal side effects, like dizziness or constipation.

Length of time for pre-surgical PT depends entirely on the patient and the surgery. More invasive surgeries or patients who deal with obesity or have sedentary lifestyles will likely need more time. Pre-existing medical conditions, like high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, might also be limited in what they can do.

I strongly recommend anyone going in for surgery to have at least two weeks of pre-surgical physical therapy for best results. Next month, I’ll take a look at post-surgical physical therapy and when is the best time to start.