Physical therapy can help patients recover from injury without the need for surgery, but it’s also beneficial for patients who do plan to have surgery. A preoperative exercise program is a physical therapy technique that physically and mentally prepares patients for surgery and postoperative rehabilitation.
In doing so, preoperative exercise also reduces the need for postoperative rehabilitation and care—including physical therapy, home health care, and skilled nursing facilities—and reduces the risk of complications from surgery.
Patients with sedentary lifestyles are especially good candidates for preoperative exercise because it helps them improve their fitness levels. Without the exercise program, patients typically experience a continued decline in mobility and function before surgery.
Preoperative exercise programs are tailored to a patient’s specific needs and often include strength training, as well as breathing, flexibility, and aerobic exercises. However, some studies show that the biggest benefit of preoperative therapy is patient education, not the exercise itself. As experts in the human body, physical therapists can educate patients on how to use assistive devices, how to plan for recovery, and help patients manage their post-surgery expectations.
Preoperative exercise programs also save patients time and money on rehabilitation facilities. According to one study, patients saw healthcare savings of around $1000 each in only one or two sessions with a physical therapist.