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Pre- Instead of Post-?

When was the last time you studied after a test?  Or prepared your dinner after you had dined?  Or had a cup of coffee after you turned out the lights for the night?  No, you say, you have things turned around.  You study before the test so that you will do better, you cook your meal before you can dine and coffee is how you start your day.  Yet, we seem to do things backwards when it comes to the way we deal with surgery or injury or illness.  After surgery we are prescribed a rehab program to get “back to normal.”  After an injury we are prescribed a rehabilitation program to get our agility back or rehab to get “normal” after an illness.  What if we were prescribed “prehab?”

Among medical professionals it is called preventive rehabilitation, or “prehab” for short, and it is increasingly prescribe to better prepare a body for the recovery following a surgery.  It also can be just the thing to help prevent injuries by strengthening the muscle groups that may be most prone to succumbing to breaking down.  And I would suggest that prehab may be a great way to prepare for a healthier aging as well.

But back to prehab before surgery…why do it if you have to do the recovery work anyway?  Medical professionals say that the evidence suggests that prehab before a scheduled surgery has some concrete benefits; patients who prehab:

  • Are better prepared both mentally and physically for surgery
  • See more successful outcomes
  • Have a shorter recovery time
  • Stay less time in the hospital recovering
  • Feel less post-operative pain and fewer complications
  • Show less swelling and greater flexibility of the affected areas.

For patients preparing to undergo a surgical or other invasive procedure, providers can prescribe a prehab regimen specifically to address their existing weaknesses as well as the anticipated disruption that surgery will represent.

I mentioned “healthier aging” as a benefit of prehab.  Prehab can be individualized to a patient to help build up strength or flexibility where needed or range of motion or better endurance and physical function.  I like to add to this list “nimble.” A physical trainer I know is a real prehab specialist, even though he does not focus on pre-surgical clients.  What he focuses on with his clients is preparation for doing better and that applies to aging well with what he terms “muscle confusion.”   He continuously changes up the physical routine so it is never the same stretches or the same conditioning.  By giving the body new challenges each workout, he helps keep older clients on their feet instead of falling and successfully working out or just working without a strain or a tear or just that pain.

You do not need to have an injury to visit a physical therapy facility.  They can assess your present condition and work with you for better posture, better lifting, a stronger core and training for specific tasks and most important a better aging.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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