Have you heard the term prehab before? Prehab is fairly unpopular. People often see physiotherapy when they are in need; specifically after they have had an injury. Prehab is being preventative of your injury OR doing exercise before going in for a scheduled surgery. I think it is a valuable tool that is being underutilized in our current day and age.
Prehabilitation or prehab is used to be preventative. Prehab is used to assess your areas of weakness to help prevent injury in the future. It can also be used if you are awaiting surgery. A common example of this is when people are awaiting a knee replacement. They are coming in before their surgery so that they are stronger, and not necessarily for pain relief. Going into surgery stronger results in being stronger coming out.
Goals for prehab are different from rehab. Rehab goals are often associated with achieving a specific goal and usually being pain-free when completing it. One I often here is “I want to do everything I used to do without pain”. On the other hand, prehab goals are a bit harder to define. Prehab goal examples could be to have symmetrical strength from left to right or better balance. The goals do not revolve around pain which makes it usually harder for people to know when they have reached them.
Prehab is also important with improving surgical outcomes.As mentioned earlier the stronger that you are going into surgery the stronger you will be coming out. The stronger that you are coming out means that you’ll be able to leave the hospital faster, and return to your day-to-day activities faster. Prehab is also good for decreasing post surgical complications. If you start your rehab journey in a deficit it will make it a lot harder to get up to baseline.
Prehab is important for preventing or reducing risk in compensation injuries such as tendinopathies and muscle tightness. When we have a muscle that is weaker often there is a muscle working twice as hard to create a more stable structure. It could also help decrease the severity of an ankle sprain. If you have better reactions and balance, you might be able to diminish the strain to the ankle.
Soccer players do a very good job at prehab. They do an exercise program called the FIFA 11+. This exercise program they complete before practices and games. It not only warms up their muscular system but their neurological system as well. Studies have shown that this FIFA 11+ has decreased injury rates in both professional and amateur athletes by nearly 50%! I believe that if we apply some of those training strategies for even non athletes that we can have similar benefits to our everyday life. We don’t need to be soccer players to be participating in a program similar to this! If we are train stronger for what is asked of our bodies the risk of injury is lower.
One of the things that I was once asked as a physiotherapy student is why do dentists get away with asking for a yearly check up and physiotherapists don’t? Don’t you think it would be beneficial for you to get assessed: strength, flexibility and balance? From the assessment, you would be given some homework to help prevent further decline? Think of the benefit it would have on our community. Better quality years over quantity of years. Elderly adults live longer at home because they are able to look after themself. Getting to spend time with your grandchildren and great grandchildren. Less dependence on medical imaging and pain medication. Less chronic disease. The list can go on and on!!
I think that we live in a reactive society and not a preventative. There is a saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We need to look at physiotherapy as not only being able to treat injuries but being able to treat for healthier living.We want to look forward to healthier aging and quality of life improvement.