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Pre-Hab: How Pre-Surgery Exercise Benefits Patients

When you learn you’re going to need surgery, or opt for a procedure to improve your quality of life, you’re likely going to need a lot of emotional preparation. However, preparing yourself physically can also be beneficial to your post-operative health. Pre-surgery exercise (otherwise known as “pre-hab”) is gaining recognition among the medical community, and when approved by your physician or surgeon, it can strengthen your body so that you’re able to bounce back more quickly following surgery.

Pre-Hab: Pre-Surgery Exercise

Prior to any non-emergency surgery, there is a period of pre-op waiting which can be used to your advantage by exercising. By getting your muscles, joints, and bones in premium shape before surgery, the inevitable muscle loss and joint stiffness caused by the procedure and resulting downtime can be minimized. Basically, the stronger you are pre-surgery, the stronger you’ll be post-surgery.

“50% of outcome success is due to the surgeon, and the other 50% is due to the patient’s commitment to recovery—starting with pre-hab,” says Vonda Wright, MD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sports Medicine.


It’s not unusual for the area you’re going to have operated on to be inflamed, sore, or weak, and attempting a DIY pre-hab exercise routine can damage the area further. So, it’s important to speak with a physical therapist who can recommend a carefully planned exercise routine that reduces inflammation and improves blood circulation to the affected area. This promotes better mobility while easing pain, and can also correct compensatory movements such as leaning and uneven weight bearing.

Your physical therapist will determine if you’re a good candidate for pre-operative surgery exercise by evaluating the following:

  • Your muscle and joint strength
  • Your ability to move and perform day-to-day tasks such as getting up from a sitting or laying down position, climbing stairs, etc.
  • The amount of assistance you require from family and friends to get around

Physical therapists generally like candidates to begin pre-hab six weeks prior to surgery. If you were not someone who exercised regularly, they will recommend you start slowly, as pre-surgery is no time to aggravate the area or trigger a new problem. If you were a regular exerciser and physically fit, they will likely consider upping the intensity, frequency, or duration of your routine.

Is Pre-Hab Really Effective?

If you’re wondering if pre-hab is just a fad with no real benefits, researchers at Boston-based facilities New England Baptist Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Medical School have proven otherwise. Their combined studies found that knee and hip replacement surgery patients who participated in water exercises, land-based strength training, and aerobic and flexibility exercises for six weeks prior to surgery reduced their odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation by nearly 75%.

“Even in a fairly brief time period, the exercise paid off for the participants,” said lead study author Daniel Rooks, PhD, former clinical research investigator and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Their level of function and pain stabilized prior to surgery, whereas those who did not exercise got worse. The benefits of exercise before surgery are very clear.”

Orthopedic surgeon Hal Crane, MD, founding medical director of the Rose Institute for Joint Replacement at the Rose Medical Center in Denver, agrees. “Pre-hab makes a huge difference in our patients’ outcomes… the rewards of pre-hab show in 24 hours after surgery… the improved strength that people gain from pre-hab can help them achieve some [ambulatory] milestones in less time.”

Getting Into a Pre-Hab Routine

Medicine has proven that by working with a physical therapist prior to surgery, you can create a strong foundation for rapid recovery post-operation. Of course, not all insurance covers pre-hab, so talk with your physician. Some hospitals offer a free pre-surgery education course, or you may be able to schedule just a few inexpensive sessions and then manage your routine on your own at home.

Something else you’ll want to speak with your physician about? BandGrip Wound Closure Bandages. Completely non-invasive, BandGrip’s patented micro-anchors grip the skin tightly to pull the wound edges together so the natural healing process can take place with minimal scarring. BandGrip also aids in ambulation, and you can shower with them on just 24 hours after surgery. With a good pre-hab routine and BandGrip wound closure applications, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

Advanced Wound Closure