Speed Up Your Recovery with Prehab at MVPT


Patients who ask what can they do after surgery to recover sooner, should be asking what can they do before surgery.  The patients with the best outcomes prepare their bodies before surgery; we call this prehab. Research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows that patients who undergo a prehab exercise program are back on their feet faster and recover more quickly than patients who don’t.

What is Prehab?

“Prehab” or prehabilitation is when a patient engages in physical therapy prior to their orthopedic surgery. This approach includes exercises and hands-on manipulation customized for their specific injury.

How does prehab help surgical outcomes?

Improved Flexibility and Joint Mobility

Injuries requiring surgery are often accompanied by severe swelling, muscle spasms, overuse of the non-surgical limb, or abnormal gait mechanics which compromise recovery. Prehab provides patients with appropriate stretching exercises, soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, and massage to improve these deficits prior to surgery. Reducing muscle tightness and joint stiffness before surgery improves how quickly post-operative range of motion returns.

Increased Strength

Swelling in the initial stages of an injury (or persistent swelling in the case of arthritis) followed by pain reduces a patient’s ability to use muscles surrounding injured areas. This quickly leads to the muscle loss, which worsens after surgery. Prehab can help reduce swelling and build muscle growth, which reduces the impact of decreased muscle performance after surgery.


Proprioception is our ability to determine where our body is in space. Surgery can significantly impact this, as well as our overall balance. These changes are due to many factors including loss of tissue containing proprioceptors, reduced muscle function and decreased ability to bear weight. These combined with the need to use assisted devices post-operatively (e.g. walkers, canes, crutches, etc.) result in our balance being out of whack. Prehab can retrain and improve the proprioceptive function of joints, muscles, and neural systems to lead to enhanced function following surgery.

Prepping for Rehab Success

Patients who participate in prehab know what to expect. and are familiar with the post-surgery rehab process. Think of it like baseball spring training, where players get ready for the long season ahead with a lot of practice swings. Many of the exercises you will do after your surgery are the same, or modifications of what was done during prehab. This provide patients with a leg-up, and allows for faster recovery without additional time required to educatie on proper form, intensity and anticipated symptoms. Research from Brigham and Women’s also shows that prehab reduces anxiety around surgery, since patients gain a sense of control by being able to actively prepare beforehand.

Whether your goal after surgery is to return to normal day-to-day activities, or to get back on a competitive playing field, prehab is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that you can do so as quickly and effectively as possible. 

 Does it really work?

A study of 28 individuals with the most severe osteoarthritis of the hip or knee showed significant improvement in daily function with walking and stairs while waiting for replacement surgery. 

After surgery:

  • Enhanced Recovery:  While at 1 year, most individuals end up with similar results, a prehab program has shown improved results at 3 and 6 months post-operatively compared to those who did not follow a prehab program.  Get better faster!
  • Regain post-operative ROM sooner: A recent study demonstrated patients on a prehab program achieved 90 degrees of knee bend sooner than their non-prehab counterparts.
  • Reduces length of hospital stay:   Another study compared patients receiving either a total hip arthroplasty (THA) or total knee arthroplasty (TKA) in prehab and non-prehab groups.  They found that both groups that participated in prehab had an increased frequency of being discharged home from surgery whereas the group that did not participate in prehab showed an increased frequency in discharge to an inpatient rehab facility.

Should you ask your doctor for Prehab?

Whether you are already active, or you lead a more sedentary lifestyle, prehab will improve your health and put your body in a better position to recover from the stress of surgery and hospitalization. With proven benefits such as decreased post-surgical pain, improve quality of life 3 months after surgery, and a speedier return to daily activities compared to those who did not receive it, prehab is for everyone.


To schedule yourself or a loved one for prehab services prior to surgery, contact our closest office or click here to complete our appointment request form.  Our in-clinic and telehealth scheduling options make it easy for your physical therapist to work with you to get you prepared for what ever life throws at you.