Prehabilitation is the process of enhancing the functional ability of a patient before he or she undergoes a stress event, like a major surgery. Its use is most recognized before ACL reconstruction. In prehab before ACL surgery, a patient preparing for ACL surgery works with a physical therapist several days a week in order to improve quadriceps strength and lower extremity function.
Prehab before ACL surgery can be especially helpful to improve a patient’s knee swelling, range of motion and control of his quadriceps, so that he improves more quickly after surgery. Strength and functional scores have been shown to be higher among patients who used these programs compared to those who did not. Prehab might even speed the time for full recovery and return to sports and exercise.
There are other potential benefits. Working with a physical therapist before surgery can strengthen the relationship between the patient and therapist after surgery. Plus, the weeks after ACL surgery are challenging for any patient. That bond with the therapist can help a patient push through those first few challenging weeks.
Also, many physical therapy practices are very busy, and trying to set up postoperative rehab to start in the first few days after surgery can be hard if you wait until immediately after the procedure. Working in a prehab program can help you set up your postoperative rehab and ensure no lag time.
The physical therapist can also help you plan to deal with any postoperative restrictions. They can help you plan for issues with driving, stairs, and other activities that will certainly be difficult after ACL surgery.