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The Importance of ‘Prehab’ Exercises

Explore the transformative power of Prehabilitation and its impact on surgical outcomes and recovery in this blog by Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Eddie Hess. 

Preparation is the key to success, and when it comes to your health, it’s no different. Let us introduce you to the concept of ‘Prehabilitation’ or ‘Prehab’ – a proactive approach that helps reduce postoperative pain, prevents strength loss, and supports emotional stability. But what if we told you there’s a way to make that journey smoother, faster, and more successful? Enter ‘Prehabilitation’ – your secret weapon for better surgical outcomes and fewer bumps along the way.

Application of Prehab

Prehabilitation, or prehab, is a process in which particular exercises are prescribed to a patient prior to surgery. This is an important part of the rehabilitation process, as it is proven to improve post-surgical outcomes, including pain, strength, functional capacity and psychological markers. Musculoskeletal prehab involves trying to improve muscular strength surrounding the affected joint, as well as stability, proprioception and range of movement (ROM), prior to surgery. 

Prehab strength exercises aren’t just for surgery prep; they are also essential to protect yourself against potential injuries. The aim of this proactive approach to exercise is to build strength and stability surrounding particularly susceptible joints or regions of the body. For example, if an athletic assessment identifies weakness in the hamstrings, a prehab program targeting the short and long hamstring muscles may be prescribed in order to reduce the risk of hamstring strains or tears. Additionally, there is a correlation between weak hamstrings and ACL injury. Therefore, by improving the strength of the hamstrings, we are also reducing the risk of an ACL injury.

Benefits of Prehab

Performing individualised strength exercises prior to surgery has numerous benefits:

  1. Increased muscular strength prior to surgery:

After surgery, the rapid loss of muscle, known as atrophy, is a common concern. This occurs because our muscles and joints aren’t actively engaged, leading to a decrease in muscle mass. In fact, inactivity can cause muscle loss at a rate of approximately 12% per week. However, it’s important to note that this rate varies depending on factors like age, fitness level, gender, and overall health.

The good news is that by increasing your muscle mass before surgery through prehabilitation, you can significantly speed up your post-surgery recovery. With a stronger starting point, you’ll be able to bounce back even faster, making the journey to full recovery a shorter one.

  1. Enhance recovery via muscle memory:

Engaging in strength exercises that mimic specific motor skills and movement patterns during prehabilitation isn’t just about getting a head start – it’s a game-changer for your recovery post-surgery. This happens because our nervous system becomes well-accustomed to the movements it has learned. An increased efficiency in executing these movement patterns will assist greatly with enhanced strength and a smoother path to recovery after surgery.

  1. Reduce recovery time:

In the world of post-surgery rehabilitation, the need for speed is undeniable. The faster we can help patients recover, the greater the reward. A reduced recovery time has many benefits: 

  • It minimises the psychological toll of both the injury and surgery.
  • It enhances the overall quality of life for our patients.
  • It gets patients back to their beloved sports and activities more swiftly, which is a tremendous psychological boost, particularly when rebounding from a significant injury.

When should I start Prehab?

Research indicates that the most beneficial timeframe to complete musculoskeletal prehab is approximately 6-12 weeks prior to surgery. This period of time allows for adequate physiological adaptations to take place before surgical intervention. However, some research has shown benefits of prehab in as little as 3-4 weeks. At the end of the day, every moment counts, especially considering the unforeseeable nature of some injuries.

Are you ready to embark on your prehabilitation journey? Contact our friendly reception team on 07 3891 2000 or reception@qsmc.net.au to arrange a personalised consultation with an Exercise Physiologist.

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