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Prehab Before Rehab for Joint Replacement

It may seem like the pain of arthritis comes out of nowhere. Many people are surprised by it, trying to make sense of “why now?” as there is usually not a specific event or injury that can account for it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, arthritis doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes many years to develop. Some research indicates the process begins in our forties but doesn’t become painful until our sixties. At some point, especially those who have knee and hip arthritis, surgery through joint replacement is inevitable. Recovery time takes a few months. But exercising before joint replacement can speed the process and make the surgery more effective. Physical therapy before joint replacement surgery is called “prehab.”

What is Prehab?

During prehab, a physical therapist will evaluate your condition, which includes taking measurements like range of motion, strength, and flexibility. They will teach you exercises to prepare your body so you can have the best improvements after surgery. Research shows that preoperative range of motion predicts range of motion after surgery. The more range of motion you have prior to surgery, the more you will have after surgery, which means walking and going up and down stairs will be easier. You will also learn about arthritis and how to make lifestyle changes to continue to live a full and active life. If there are any questions you have about recovery and the rehab process following replacement, a therapist can answer those questions during prehab.

Prehab Benefits

Benefits extend beyond just familiarizing yourself with your condition and learning exercise. The outcomes of surgery are improved in those who have had prehab. Patients who exercise prior to surgery have improved strength and functional mobility after joint replacement compared to patients who did not exercise before joint replacement. Three months after total knee replacement, patients who received prehab have improved quality of life compared to those who did not. Prehab can even save you time and money. In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, patients that used even as little as 1-2 sessions of prehab saved 29% cost after knee replacement.

Though there seems to be such a benefit, prehab still isn’t standard care everywhere. Luckily, at Touro Infirmary, we have a one-day prehab program that people attend prior to their joint replacement. Our therapists describe the procedure and rehab, answer questions about recovery, and go over exercises that can be done in preparation for surgery. If joint replacement is in your future, consider doing a few sessions of prehab at Touro’s Back In Action Center at least 4 weeks prior to surgery in order to prepare your body and joint for improved post-operative outcomes. Establishing care with one of Touro’s Back In Action Center therapists will make the transition after surgery go more smoothly. You will be familiar with the exercises, and the therapist will be familiar with your situation and your goals that you would like to achieve. Just ask your physician to refer you to Touro’s Back In Action Center for prehab.

Back in Action

Touro’s Back in Action Center provides comprehensive physical and occupational therapy services to adolescent, adult, and geriatric patients, as well as case management for patients with orthopedic diagnoses, therapeutic wellness and women’s health. Go to to learn more.

1525 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone number: 504-897-8157
Fax number: 504-897-7041

Monique Serpas, PT, DPT, OCS is a physical therapist and board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist practicing at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, LA. Monique realizes how difficult it can be to overcome an injury or manage a chronic condition and is focused on helping her clients achieve wellness through a physically active lifestyle. Monique treats orthopaedic, balance, and vestibular disorders using a combination of hands-on manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, and education. This enables patients to assist in their own recovery and injury prevention. Monique holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Concordia University Wisconsin (2008) and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Louisiana State University (2004). She is am a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Louisiana Physical Therapy Association (LPTA), and the Orthopaedic and Neurology sections of the APTA