Empowering Patients Through Prehabilitation
A LITTLE PREPARATION CAN GO A LONG WAY
By Dr. Frank Scerbo, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS
Most people think of physical therapy as something you do after a surgery. And they’re not wrong – that’s called post-surgical rehabilitation, and it’s an effective way to begin restoring mobility and function after an orthopedic surgery such as a joint replacement.
What fewer people may be familiar with, and what I’d like more of you to know about, is the concept of “prehabilitation” – physical therapy that can be done to prepare the patient before surgery.
As a Physical Therapist and the owner of Scerbo Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation in Edgewater, I know firsthand the enormous benefits that prehabilitation offers for people who need any of the common joint surgeries, such as a knee replacement, hip replacement or shoulder replacement. Here are some of the most important ways prehabilitation can improve your recovery experience:
There is great value in empowering yourself with information, especially if you are nervous about what comes after surgery. Prehabilitation ensures you can enter into the process with knowledge rather than fear. In particular, I really like being able to explain to my patients what the overall goals are, but also what milestones we’ll be looking for along the way.
In the initial period after surgery, long-term objectives can feel overwhelmingly distant. But in my experience, patients who have a good understanding of what lies ahead find it much easier to work toward, recognize and celebrate the short-term successes along the journey to those larger goals. For instance, while the eventual goal after a knee replacement might be to resume physical activities you enjoyed before the injury, your first target might be to restore knee extension in four weeks.
By the time people seek joint replacement surgery, they are usually experiencing diminished muscle endurance, strength, mobility and function. If you are already compromised before surgery, we can’t reasonably expect you to be able to work out after surgery.
For that reason, we want to help you get into the best shape you can before going in for surgery. With prehabilitation, we can develop a realistic plan for managing these weaknesses – sometimes in ways that might not occur to the patient. For instance, we may have you work on leg strength in the opposite leg, to make sure your balance is good and your endurance doesn’t decline.
Learning to do therapeutic exercises correctly in a supervised setting doesn’t take that long, and it’s so worthwhile. Prehabilitation is not extensive; just a few sessions can be sufficient to establish a good base and a good relationship with your physical therapist, so you’ll be ready to go after your surgery.
In fact, even a single session can make a significant difference; we can teach you what to do and how to do it, so you’ll be able to carry out your program at home or at the gym. This is a good option if your insurance company limits the number of visits it will cover. You can also ask your physical therapist what kinds of payment plans are available. For instance, here at Scerbo PT we offer flexible self-pay options.
Faster, easier recovery
A joint replacement surgery is not about short-term relief – it’s about making your next decade pain-free and mobile. And if for any reason you can’t undergo prehabilitation, don’t worry – you’ll still get there. Fortunately, long-term outcomes tend to be similar with or without prehabilitation.
The difference is in the short term: With prehabilitation, you’ll go into surgery as strong as possible, you’ll be more informed and you’ll have realistic goals – all of which will make it much easier to commit to your rehabilitation overall. The end result will be a shorter, easier recovery – and a happier patient.
We are always available if you have any questions or need assistance. Call us at 201-941-2240 or visit us at www.scerbopt.com. We are also on social media; follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Scerbo Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation, 725 River Road, Suite 60 (Marketplace), Edgewater, New Jersey 07020.