Prehab Is Your Best Chance At Quickly Recovering From Surgery
“When my doctor gave me two choices about the pain in my right shoulder- Either live with it or have surgery, I felt hopeless.”- Sherry Chriss, client.
Facing surgery is scary and quite common for a lot of adults. Although every surgery can’t be avoided, one solution to prepare for a swift recovery and potentially avoiding surgery altogether is slow-motion strength training. We call this prehab or “prehabilitation” and it’s happening in our studios and virtual training sessions every day.
Prehab for Total Knee Replacement
One of the most common surgical procedures our clients face is a Total Knee Replacement (TKRs), and they are as popular as ever. More than 381,000 TKRs take place every year, and researchers expect that number to grow six-fold in the next 20 years .
The surgery can be very helpful as it enables people with severe knee osteoarthritis to decrease or eliminate their pain while improving their functional ability. However, a TKR also leads to a period of inactivity during recovery, and that inactivity has drawbacks. People lose about 60% of their quadriceps strength within the first month following surgery.
Considering that information, it’s no surprise that people with TKRs have demonstrated slower walking and stair-climbing speeds when compared to their peers.
Researchers at the University of Louisville conducted a study comparing people who “prehabbed” against those who did not (control group) for five months prior to surgery. Like our clients, the individuals who strength trained fared very well.
The exercise group trained three times per week prior to the surgery, including exercises such as the leg curl and leg extension. Following the surgery, both groups received the same physical therapy.
Watch one of our clients on the Leg Extension!
Before the surgery, strength training prevented knee pain from increasing and improved the participants’ functional abilities like getting up from a chair, walking speed, and stair-climbing speed.
One month after the surgery, the control group experienced losses in quadricep strength and walking speed, whereas the exercise group did not (when compared to baseline tests). Three months later, functional ability and strength in the operated leg were greater in the exercise group.
Overall, the study found quadriceps strength was associated with greater functional ability and less knee pain. Researchers in a study out of the University of Delaware found the same connections when monitoring quadriceps strength days before and one year after a TKR .
They also noticed that quadriceps strength before surgery also predicts dynamic balance a year after surgery. Dynamic balance is tested by seeing how quickly a person can stand from a chair, walk around a sharp turn, and then return to the chair.
Balance and strength are some of the most important benefits of slow-motion strength training, especially in older adults who fear falling.
How Long Do You Prehab For?
If a TKR or any other major joint surgery is in your future, you might wonder how long you should train for prior to the procedure. As mentioned, the study included five months of prehabilitation, although we have clients who have only trained for 3 months leading up to their surgery and still experienced a quick and less-painful recovery period. Obviously, the earlier you start, the more strength you will build prior to surgery.
The process of strengthening before a surgery just makes sense. The joints are healthier when their surrounding muscles are stronger. Strength training before a joint replacement surgery allows you the opportunity to build healthier joints and muscles that you will simply work to maintain after surgery, instead of having to build them for the first time.
If a surgery like TKR is in your future, or you want to do whatever you can to avoid one, slow-motion strength training is the solution.
Clients Who Have Avoided Surgery:
In addition to those who have prehabbed before surgery, we’ve helped many people prevent injuries and avoid surgery altogether.
Michael, 66, had been told by his doctor that he needed a hip replacement. He also wanted to lose weight, gain overall strength and stamina, and a 20 minute workout was very appealing to him. Michael’s strength training results speak for themselves:
- No longer has back or hip problems
- Has more energy and stronger muscles
- Able to hit the golf ball 20-30 yards further at the driving range
- Has been able to avoid hip replacement surgery
“The Perfect Workout has a great thing going. You feel like you have a workout when you come here. I’ll continue to do it.”
Mary Jane Bartee
When you have medical conditions like fibromyalgia, osteopenia, and pelvic prolapse, you’re going to be very careful about exercise. “Anything that’s fast-moving and aggressive aggravates it,” says Mary Jane (MJ) Bartee. Slow, safe movement is what first appealed to her about slow-motion strength training. MJ’s strength training results are nothing short of fantastic:
- Her most recent bone density test showed that her osteopenia is gone
- The pain from her other conditions is more manageable, resulting in less medication
- Her pelvic prolapse has greatly improved, to the point where the doctors aren’t talking about surgery anymore
“It’s quick and accommodating,” says MJ. “20 minutes and I’m done. It’s something I do for myself, and as long as I’m functioning as well as I am, I’ll stick with it.”
After unsuccessful physical therapy and cortisone shots for an injured shoulder, Sherry was desperate for an alternative to surgery. She was also distraught about the effects of menopause, including loss of bone density, decreased upper body strength, and weak legs. A year after she began strength training at The Perfect Workout:
- Sherry’s bone density scan improved, surprising even her doctor.
- She no longer has shoulder pain, and no longer needs surgery.
“I enjoyed it right off the bat, and little did I know how fantastic it would turn out to be. My husband and I have both seen great results, so we’re committed to doing The Perfect Workout for the rest of our lives!”
Don’t wait for post-surgery to start building up strength. In fact, surgery may not be necessary if you take action now. It only takes 20 minutes, twice a week and you’ll get a lifetime workout guaranteed to get you stronger.
- Topp, R., Swank, A. M., Quesada, P. M., Nyland, J., & Malkani, A. (2009). The effect of prehabilitation exercise on strength and functioning after total knee arthroplasty. PM&R, 1(8), 729-735.
- Mizner, R. L., Petterson, S. C., Stevens, J. E., Axe, M. J., & Snyder-Mackler, L. (2005). Preoperative quadriceps strength predicts functional ability one year after total knee arthroplasty. The Journal of rheumatology, 32(8), 1533-1539.
Matt Hedman is a Master Level Super Slow instructor and the founder of The Perfect Workout, which is the largest privately-owned 1-on-1 personal training company in the United States with over 60 fitness studios nationwide. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Washington. He worked briefly as an engineer in GE, until he found his passion for HIT, and pursued a career in personal fitness training.