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We’ve all heard of post-operative physical therapy – when a person gets physical therapy to help support the healing process.  But what about pre-surgery physical therapy? Is the concept really beneficial, or is it just a popular trend?  

Whether it’s a big surgery or what you consider to be a minor procedure, being adequately prepared is a must.  Let’s explore if pre-surgery physical therapy should be a part of your plan. 

What Does Pre-Surgery Physical Therapy Involve? 

Dr. Benjamin Pulose of Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University summed it up well in his 2021 article titled, Is there a benefit to physical therapy before surgery? 

He writes, “Pre-surgery physical therapy is meant to get you geared up physically for a procedure to try to reduce complications after. When we ask you to undergo surgery, it puts you through pretty physically intense activity. It could be compared to asking someone to run a few miles. Unless they’ve been training for it, most people would experience some difficulty running that far. So, if we’re going to ask you to “run a mile” during surgery, we should train you to handle that surgery a little better.”

Many medical professionals commonly refer to this practice as pre-rehabilitation. 

What physical therapy involves depends primarily on two things:

So, let’s suppose you’ll be undergoing total knee replacement surgery. If a patient has undergone pre-surgery physical therapy sessions, they might need to focus less on building muscle, muscle strength, and improving flexibility.  Instead, their post-operative journey might be more dedicated to walking, balance, and healing. The patient who opted out of pre-surgery PT might have to focus on ALL those areas.  

Or, let’s say a total hip replacement is the upcoming surgery. Weight-bearing, range of motion, and balance will no doubt be a part of the post-op process, but the patient who is already strong, flexible, and healthy from pre-surgery preps is likely to heal more efficiently. Pre-surgery physical therapy can be a key factor in that healing journey. 

The Unplanned Benefit of Prehab

It might sound impossible, but in many cases, physical therapy has been the key factor in avoiding surgery altogether. Many medical professionals admit that medical surgeries are often overprescribed.  Why get surgery if you don’t have to? Physical therapy targets the area where you’re compromised, so why not give it a fair shot? Whether surgery happens or not, the odds of you healing faster, getting stronger, and being healthier are much higher than if you avoid PT ahead of surgery altogether. In short… in most cases, pre-surgery physical therapy is win-win.  

Is Pre-Surgery Physical Therapy Right For You? 

Of course, there are those occasions when pre-surgery physical therapy may NOT be an option or may not be necessary. 

For those circumstances where you’re not sure, this article from the New York Times gives some solid advice. “If you have a lingering or acute injury, find the right specialist for your condition and body part, and then gather all the relevant information and potential options. With your clinician, determine things like whether the joint was damaged from a traumatic event, or if the issue stems from more chronic issues, like strength imbalances or age-related changes that were exacerbated by a spike in physical activity.” 

Having a medical doctor or team that you can trust to give you reliable, honest advice and guidance is the first step. Here at Physical Therapy NOW, we pride ourselves on the custom approach that is unique to your specific circumstances. If you think pre-surgery physical therapy is something you want to explore, call us at (214) 225-0291. We’re here to help. 


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