Many people have had or know someone who has had physical therapy after a surgery. What you may not know is that physical therapy can, and arguably should, be done before surgery as well. This type of physical therapy is known as pre-surgery physical therapy or pre-surgery rehabilitation (prehab).
“But,” you may be asking yourself, “wouldn’t I still have to get a referral from my doctor before I go to prehab?” The answer in most states is, no. This answer is possible thanks to a concept called direct access that allows you to be more proactive about seeking physical therapy, including pre-surgery PT.
What is direct access?
Direct access refers to a type of law that grants people the right to seek help from physical therapists without a doctor’s referral. There are, however, two types of direct access you should be aware of. The first is called unrestricted direct access. States with unrestricted direct access laws allow people to go see a physical therapist without a referral with no other provisions or restrictions. The second type of direct access is provisional direct access. This type refers to states whose direct access laws include provisions about things like:
- Who has direct access to physical therapy.
- When or if physical therapists must notify your doctor that they are treating you.
- How long physical therapists can treat you before seeking treatment plan approval from your doctor.
Fortunately, both types of direct access laws allow you to be far more proactive about seeking prehab. And doing so can have several important benefits for you.
5 ways proactively seeking pre-surgery physical therapy can benefit you
Being proactive about going to physical therapy can be beneficial for many injuries and conditions. However, there are specific benefits that you can get by proactively seeking pre-surgery PT before your surgery. Some of the benefit you could see include:
- Reduced pain before surgery — Injuries and medical conditions that need surgery are typically painful. Indeed, your pain is likely one of the reasons you decided to have surgery in the first place. Physical therapists can create a prehab plan for you that’s designed to reduce the pain you’re feeling before surgery. They can also teach you about specific movements and activities to avoid with your injury or condition. These tips can keep you from aggravating the affected area more and causing yourself more pain.
- Improved surgery endurance — Having surgery is hard on your body. In some ways, it can be as physically tough on your body as running a marathon. Thus, it’s a good idea to train your body for surgery just as you would train it to run a marathon. Physical therapists can help prepare your body for surgery and increase your ability to endure surgery. One way they can do so is by creating a preoperative exercise program for you. This program can help you to strengthen the areas of your body that are most likely to be affected by surgery.
- Faster post-surgery functional gains — Even with prehab, you’re likely to lose some function after surgery. However, doing prehab before surgery can help you restore function faster following your procedure. A medical study on therapeutic exercise before hip and knee replacement surgery agrees. This study found that patients who did therapeutic exercises before surgery had higher levels of function three months after surgery than patients who didn’t.
- Reduced anxiety — Medical studies show that people who are anxious before surgery are more likely to have a poorer recovery. Most of us have some level of anxiety when we’re in a new environment. And this is especially true when we visit a new medical facility like a physical therapy clinic. Proactively going to physical therapy before your surgery allows you to visit the PT clinic you’ve chosen. Doing so helps you become familiar with this environment. Prehab sessions also allow you to get to know your physical therapist before you see them for post-surgery PT. Gaining a greater familiarity with your PT clinic and physical therapist can, in turn, ease some of the anxiety you’re feeling before surgery.
- Increased strength — A 2010 case report on prehab found that it helped a knee replacement patient increase their strength in both knees by 50% before surgery. The report also says that “gains in strength were maintained in the nonsurgical knee after surgery.” This is an important benefit, even though the report isn’t talking about the knee that was operated on. The reason it’s beneficial is a stronger nonsurgical knee can help ease pressure on the other knee after surgery. After all, it has to bear most of your weight when you start walking after surgery until the other knee heals. A nonsurgical knee that’s not strong enough for the added weight could be injured itself. It could even cause a loss of control while walking that might re-injure the repaired knee.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you be proactive with your pre-surgery PT
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need.
Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you get effective and beneficial pre-surgery PT.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Come find help preparing for your surgery today!