Pre-Operative Physiotherapy

Pre-Operative Physiotherapy Reduces Recovery Time

A recent study revealed that pre-operative physical therapy reduces post-operative care by as much as 29 percent in patients who have a total knee or total hip replacement. Not only does this translate to a significant cost savings, it also means recovery time is shortened. Best part? You can see results in as few as one to two pre-operative physical therapy sessions. In cases of a total knee or total hip replacement, pre-operative physical therapy sessions tend to focus less on building muscle or improving flexibility and more on training on walkers, planning for recovery and teaching patients basic exercises they will perform after surgery.

Pre-Operative Physiotherapy Can Shorten Hospitalization

Patients who are prone to complications after surgery or who are at a high probability for transfer to an acute care rehabilitation facility can shorten the length of their stay with pre-operative physical therapy. From joint replacement to cardio-thoracic surgery, low intensity exercise, under the guidance of a physical therapist, improves circulation which in turn speeds the body’s healing response. Likewise, patients who build muscle in their core, arms, legs, and back are less likely to experience large amounts of atrophy during their recovery. Such atrophy often delays a patient’s return home even if they are healing well. Even a patient’s balance can be improved before surgery, diminishing the likelihood of falling afterward, which could result in longer hospital stays.

Pre-Operative Physiotherapy May Prevent Surgery Altogether

Even though pre-operative physical therapy meets a different objective than post-operative physical therapy, working with a therapist before surgery may yield a shocking result. You may not need surgery. While this is not the case with patients who are planning for total joint replacement, physical therapy may help soft tissue injuries heal while restoring function without going under the knife. People tend to think of PT as something you do after surgery. In reality, physical therapists are experts in restoring movement and function throughout the body, with or without surgical intervention. If you are planning to have surgery on any soft tissues in your body, give pre-operative physical therapy a try first. You may be surprised by your results.

From improving recovery times and shortening hospital stays to improving function and healing of soft tissue injuries, pre-operative physical therapy is a vital key to returning you to activity. If you are in the process of scheduling elective surgery, let us help you prepare to have the best possible outcome before and after.

Pre-Operative Rehabilitation

Most of us are familiar with a comprehensive post-operative rehabilitation program designed to promote healing, reduce pain and swelling, restore joint mobility, flexibility and strength. However, many of us are not aware of the benefits of a structured pre-operative or “pre-habilitation” program.

This is a program designed by your physical therapists to help you prior to surgery so that you can have a great outcome after surgery. The goals of a pre-habilitation program:

  • Mentally prepare for surgery
  • Reduce pain and inflammation
  • Restore range of motion
  • Improving muscular control of the injured joint
  • Normalizing movement patterns prior to your surgery
  • Improved overall well-being and fitness
  • Gain a good understanding of the exercises that you will perform immediately after surgery


Your physician may refer you to physical therapy prior to your operation. Similar to postoperative rehabilitation, your preoperative therapy will be an individualized program designed to strengthen muscles and improve range of motion. There are 4 main benefits of going to see a PT prior to surgery:

  1. Minimize pain and swelling – Patients may have to wait for their swelling to decrease before they can have their surgery. Patients with less swelling going into surgery tend to improve more quickly post surgery.
  2. Increase muscle strength – Muscle atrophy naturally occurs when movement is diminished. It is critical to reactivate your muscles to restore function.
  3. Restore range of motion –Getting your range of motion back to normal prior to surgery will help decrease the risk of postoperative stiffness. Once it gets tight, it is really difficult to get your motion back.
  4. Patient education –Surgery will impact your normal movements. We help educate patients on on proper ways to get in and out of bed, from a sitting position, and how to use assistive devices such as crutches or a walker. Studies have shown that athletes who do not participate in pre-hab take longer to return to their sport.

Just one or two sessions of preoperative physical therapy has been shown to reduce postoperative care by over more than $1000 for hip or knee replacement patients. Due to effectiveness of pre-hab, more and more insurances cover preoperative physical therapy. If you have questions about your coverage, we’ll happily call your insurance for you. The stronger and more prepared you are prior to surgery, the better the results.