Changing the landscape of healthcare from reactive to proactive: Physical therapy for prehab
-Why going to physical therapy for prehab can be a game changer-
What on earth is prehab? Sounds like a funny, made-up word right? But seriously, you go to a physical therapist to rehab from injury but what about going to a physical therapist for a ‘P’rehab plan? Prehab, or preventive rehabilitation, means being proactive with your training, as opposed to having to be reactive after an injury occurs.
The traditional model for health care in the US has historically been - get sick/hurt→ wait to see doctor/specialist→ multiple tests/pills that treat the symptoms → go back to doctor/specialist to try a different approach …. And so on. This method has led to excessive amounts of time and money wasted while YOU the consumer continue to suffer and just want answers and solutions. How many times have you had a mild irritation start to become more frequent, more intense, more limiting to a certain exercise or activity that you have to avoid it altogether because you don’t know why or how to fix it?
Enter prehab. While a good diet and overall balanced lifestyle can help you ward off sickness and disease, many people in the general public are just in the dark about how to prevent pain and injury. Prehab will look different for everyone but could look like daily spinal mobility drills to prevent back pain for the retiree, plyometric exercises to reduce the risk of knee and ankle injuries in basketball players, nordic curls to reduce the risk of hamstring injuries in runners, or increasing scapular stability and strength for overhead movements in Crossfitters. Here at KFix Physical Therapy, every prehab program is individualized to ensure you’re in top shape for your sport and lifestyle and at the least risk for injury.
Whether for lack of time or knowledge of what to do, many people miss out on the benefits of prehab. Prehab serves many roles, and doesn’t have to be complicated or extensive. In reference to a prehab program, think of a physical therapist as giving you a road map of what to focus on...you don’t need to add another hour to a workout but sometimes just doing a 3-5 corrective exercises or drills in your routine two or three times a week as part of your warmup or cooldown can help ward off injuries. In terms of consistency, this notion of prehab is not one-and-done. The human body is always going to require maintenance work to perform at a high level because our bodies and lives are always changing. Prehab should be seen as a long-term modification to your training program.
Prehab helps to increase strength and confidence in positions we may be unstable in, contributes to joint and tendon health, and allows you to identify areas of weakness. At the end of the day, there is no surefire way to prevent injury, because accidents just happen sometimes, but we can greatly reduce the risk. Outlined below are the why’s, who’s, and how’s of prehab.
Rehab restores strength and function following injury. Prehab helps to build the strength and function that minimizes the risk of injury in the first place.
Research has been done surrounding the use of prehab to prevent ACL tears and one prehab training program, designed by the University of Vermont’s Medical School, decreased the risk of ACL tear in skiers by 69% in those who did the program vs. those who did not. A 69% reduction! Many ACL tears are due to weakness in the hamstring compared to the quad. If we had strengthened the hamstring pre-season and throughout the season, could we have prevented that ACL tear? We will never know for certain, but increasing strength by following a prehab program is never a bad thing.
Anyone can benefit from a prehab program. Are you a retired golfer just looking to get on the course for a few hours several days a week? Prehab can help you maintain an effortless swing with plenty of mobility and control so that compensatory patterns don’t creep up and start causing pain. Are you an avid powerlifter, cross fitter, or bodybuilder training your body by pushing your limits in order to compete at a local, state, or even national level? It’s not just about normal strength training, isolated movements, heavy lifting and hypertrophy. But there also needs to be a session or portion dedicated to functional mobility, control, body movement in various planes, and strength in the little muscles that you need to be firing at all times. The same can be said for youth athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and the person just looking to be healthy and enjoy a quality life.
While prehab is a crucial part of an elite athlete’s training program, it can and should be utilized by anyone engaging in physical activity that wishes to avoid injury. Prehab is also critical in the months leading up to orthopedic surgical procedures, and is often referred to as “preoperative rehabilitation.” Patients go to prehab to gain strength prior to a surgery, thus making for a smoother and quicker recovery. However, many patients that undergo preoperative rehabilitation have actually REVERSED the need for their surgery.
A prehab program can be utilized as a warmup or cool down, as a separate session in the gym, or on an active recovery day. Prehab exercises could even be built into your workout sets, as many of the exercises will complement the training you’re already doing in the gym. Supplemental exercises, adjusting recovery and training levels, movement education, and soft tissue work or massage are all key components of a prehab program.
Ultimately, the goal of any coach, athlete, trainer, and medical professional should be to ALWAYS reduce the risk for injury and INCREASE performance capability. These are two key metrics we strive for at KFix PT.
Here at KFix PT, we don’t just develop rehab plans for injury recovery, we also develop prehab plans for injury prevention. We can help you develop a plan to identify areas of weakness and minimize the chance of injury in your sport or fitness routine. Reach out to us today by calling (941)777-5098 or scheduling through our website to set up an initial consultation!