By Jeff Kitchen, PT, ATC, CSCS*
Every month I get the question from people, “Will pre-surgical physical therapy help me?” and the answer is YES. The better condition one can be in prior to physical therapy, the better the post surgical outcome. Think of it this way: Many Pro athletes have an injury and seem to return from surgery more quickly than the general populous. This is because they were in optimal physical condition when the injury occurred, thus their post surgical state will still leave them at a higher baseline than many of the general population who have not had surgery! In addition, they are using excellent nutrition and daily physical therapy to fully focus on their recovery. So, if we can take Joe Schmo prior to surgery and improve his baseline level of conditioning as it pertains to his injury [ ie regain full range of motion, optimize strength of the injured area, and improve the pain level related to the injury] his post surgical baseline will be improved.
Generally, there are very few conditions where pre-surgical rehab would not be advised. Whether it is for effusion [swelling] , pain control, range of motion, strengthening or patient education with a home exercise plan, pre-surgical rehab will get the patient started in the right direction and maximize their post surgical outcome. If the patient cannot travel, even a home health visit would be of benefit. In the event of an unstable fracture or more severe condition, your physician would have you casted or braced and give you specific directions regarding the precautions to be taken.
To prepare for recovery after surgery, one should have all the essential tools at home in regards to assitive devices such as crutches, canes, walkers, grabbers for assisted reach, pulleys for ROM, elevated seats and supportive pillows. In addition, pre-op visits to PT will offer instruction and education for your specific condition.
*Jeff Kitchen is the owner of Rehab Plus Scottsdale. He operates his outpatient physical therapy clinic in North Scottsdale and serves as the director of the athletic training program for Notre Dame Preparatory School