Prehab Prior To Shoulder Surgery?

Many of you have probably heard of the term ‘prehab’ or rehabilitation before a surgery, but you might be wondering why it’s so important. A common thought is ‘why do I need to do rehab if I’m going to end up doing surgery?’

Prehab is, in fact, extremely important and beneficial for candidates going for shoulder surgery and should not be missed! Read on to understand what prehab is and why it’s recommended.

What Is Prehab?

“Prehab” is a shorter term for ‘prehabilitation’, or if we’re talking about surgery, ‘pre-operative rehabilitation’. Essentially, it is the rehabilitation we do in the waiting time before a surgical procedure. There is no specific length or duration of prehab as this may vary depending on factors such as your current physical condition, wait lists for a particular surgery, or whether you’ve met your surgeon’s criteria to undergo surgery.

What Does Prehab Involve?

There can be a variety of tasks or goals involved in prehab, which is, again, dependent on your physical needs. In the case of the shoulder, this may include learning and practising exercises to improve movement and strength, or utilising strategies and techniques to minimise pain and discomfort. It may involve exercising other parts of your body (e.g. legs, core, cardio) to ensure they stay fit and healthy in the pre-operative and post-operative phase. Prehab may also include learning and understanding what to expect during and after your shoulder surgery.

Why Should I Undergo Prehab For Shoulder Surgery?

There are many benefits of undergoing “Prehab” prior to shoulder surgery, such as:

  • Better Recovery After Surgery – For many surgical procedures, undergoing prehab is associated with better outcomes in the post-operative phase. After most surgeries, there is a brief period of relative rest and minimal rehab to allow for healing, which can lead to loss of movement, strength, and fitness. The stronger/healthier you are going into the surgery, the less of an impact the rest period will have, and the easier (and sometimes shorter) the recovery phase will be.

  • Pre-Learn Your Post-Op Exercises – Many of the exercises you learn during prehab may end up being ones you will be prescribed after shoulder surgery. Why not learn earlier rather than later?
    Some people even find it easier during the recovery phase of surgery if they already know their exercises.

  • Maintain Or Improve Your Current Physical Condition – Particularly for those who have a wait period before surgery, prehab will be useful to maintain or improve your current shoulder movement, strength and stability. As with the saying “use it or lose it”, if we are not using our shoulder enough to improve or maintain its function, its condition can worsen (e.g. further loss of movement or strength, higher pain levels).
    Therefore, prehab is highly recommended to maintain or improve your current function. In some cases with prehab, shoulder function and/or pain levels may even improve to the point where you decide you can manage without surgery (i.e. conservatively).

  • Meet Surgical Guidelines – In some cases, the surgical procedure and/or surgeon will require you to meet specific physical criteria to be eligible for the procedure and to optimise outcomes after surgery. In these cases, it will be a necessity to undergo prehab to meet the criteria, otherwise you may no longer be considered suitable for the procedure.

Who can help me with Prehab?

It is recommended to undergo prehab guided by a health professional. At UniquePhysio, our physiotherapists and exercise physiologists are well-equipped to assist you during the pre- operative phase by developing an exercise program to meet your physical needs, helping minimise pain and discomfort, and preparing you for shoulder surgery.

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