Pre-habilitation involves doing a specific exercise program designed by a physiotherapist in order to improve your strength and function before surgery. Exercises are targeted towards muscle weaknesses and limitations in movement to optimise joint function and prepare the joint for surgery. Pre-habilitation increases the chances of successful surgery by starting exercise programs prior to surgical pain, as well as educating the patient on what to expect through the process. Pre-habilitation can also be used to decrease your chance of injury in sport and exercise through preventative exercises.

What are the benefits?

For surgical patients the primary benefit is quicker recovery time. This may mean you get back to your desired sport or activity faster, or have to take less time off work. In surgery, trauma and swelling cause surrounding muscles to weaken. The stronger your muscles are before the surgery the faster this strength can be regained. Pre-habilitation can also reduce the need for pain medication, and help avoid making errors in the recovery process due to a greater understanding of what to do, and what not to do. Prehab-ing for a specific sport has been shown to reduce the incidence of injury by identifying risk factors that could lead to injury. Working to reduce these risk factors improves your overall performance so that you can run faster, jump higher or string the ball that bit better.

Is there any evidence behind it?

A lot of evidence has come out recently about the benefits of pre-habilitation. Most studies have looked at pre-surgery exercise for knee and lower back surgery, although there have been studies on chest and heart surgery too. A Finnish study showed lower medical costs and better quality of life in people who undertook prehab exercises. Although these patients had higher pre-surgery costs, the overall costs were comparable due to a reduced requirement for post-surgery physio and a decreased length of hospital stay. One study found the amount of post-surgery rehab to be 73% less in those that participated in prehab. Another study demonstrated overall satisfaction with recovery and surgery was also far better in the pre-habilitation group.