Rehabilitation vs Prehabilitation

To me, there are few things in life worse than a tooth ache. This is why I quickly called my dentist when my tooth ache came from out of nowhere last month. The next week I went into the “dreaded” dentist’s office and had a root canal performed. After the root canal procedure I was scheduled to come in the following week for more work on my teeth.  Because I have a great dentist and relationship with him, I teased him by complaining about having to come back to his office so soon. He teased me right back by stating, “If you would have followed my previous advice, this root canal today would have been avoided. By getting these fillings now, it will prevent further work to be done.” He explained that by spending the money and time now, I will be saving a lot more in the future.

This concept of preventative medicine in health care is not new. Visiting the dentist twice a year is one way in which preventative medicine can save us money and time. One concept that has been gaining ground, but isn’t as well known with the general population, is “prehabilitation”. Just as with the dentist, a “prehab” visit with your physical therapist can be performed as an orthopedic assessment to look at the musculoskeletal system. This can help prevent future injuries, aches, and pain. The two areas “prehab” is gaining ground in are detecting possible abnormalities in the musculoskeletal system, and assessing a patient before they go into surgery. This “prehab” could not only save a person a lot of time and money, but will also save them from going through the unpleasant experience of an injury.Preventative Medicine Blog Post Utah Physical Therapy

Just as my dentist can evaluate the condition of my teeth and recommend a plan to prevent future tooth aches, a physical therapist can perform an orthopedic assessment to prevent future injuries. “Prehab” is being performed currently with competitive soccer players to prevent ACL injuries. This ACL prevention is especially helpful in the female population, who are predisposed for ACL injuries. Not only is “prehab” effective in the competitive athlete, it is also effective with the “weekend warrior”, the worker who spends a lot of time sitting at a desk, and one whom performs a lot of lifting throughout the day.

More and more people are spending the majority of their work time sitting at a desk. Sitting at a desk for hours every day can cause a person to have neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and headaches, just to name a few. Although these conditions can be relieved with physical therapy after they have occurred, our goal is to prevent them from even occurring. The “prehab” visit will look at everything from a postural assessment, movement screening, and at how your work setting is set up. With this assessment, you would also be sent home with an exercise program that would focus on preventing future aches and pains. Your next physical therapy visit would most likely be further down the road to check up on the exercises given to you, and to perform a re-assessment.

Another important place “prehab” can play a big role in is prior to surgery. Not only does the research show this, but we have seen in our clinic that a physical therapy assessment before surgery will improve outcomes of the surgery. The outcomes of the surgery are not only improved, but the total duration of rehab is decreased when a patient has greater range of motion of a joint, strength, and understanding of what the rehab process will be like following the operation. The “prehab” prior to surgery may consist of up to a few visits, but the exercises at home will be very important in preparing for the operation. If you have a surgery planned, a simple visit to your physical therapist prior to the operation can really help in the entire rehab process following the surgery.

Thank you for reading this article. As it is important to prevent a potential tooth ache in the future, it is also important and possible to prevent orthopedic aches and pains. Please contact your local physical therapist if you have any questions in regards to “prehab”. With the future in mind, “prehab” can potentially save a lot of time and money. If you are in our area and have questions about your insurance and what your policy would cover with “prehab”, please give our clinic a call. Our office will be happy to look into your policy coverage for you.  Our office will be happy to assist you and work with you to help keep you injury and pain free.

Justin Longhurst, DPT
Utah Physical Therapy, West Haven