What Is Prehabilitation?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 19 February 2020
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Prehabilitation is a special type of exercise program designed to strengthen the body in order to prevent injuries or cope with medical procedures. Athletes use prehabilitation to strengthen key muscle groups in an effort to stave off injuries. Physical therapists make use it to prepare patients who are about to undergo medical procedures such as hip or knee replacements.

Athletes often rely on a program of prehabilitation in order to reduce both the likelihood and the severity of injuries incurred during athletic activity. No amount of preparation can entirely eliminate the risks associated with athletic activity, but a well-crafted training program can reduce the likelihood of injury and prepare the body to recover quickly. This type of training program for athletes often emphasizes exercises that strengthen the specific muscles and joints used by a particular athlete. Core strength is also a focus of prehabilitation, in order to increase balance to aid in injury avoidance.

In some cases, a good prehabilitation plan will allow an athlete to avoid injury, as better balance can prevent some injuries, and strengthening exercises can render the body more resilient. If injuries occur in spite of careful preparation, an athlete who has undergone such training often has an improved pace of recovery. Flexibility and core strength can aid an athlete in coping with the temporary effects of an injury, and stronger joints may heal faster.


A second important variety of prehabilitation involves preparing patients for surgery. The underlying principle is the same as that behind prehab for athletes. A strong body with good balance and core strength is better able to cope with injury and may heal more rapidly, regardless of whether the injury is a result of athletic competition or a surgical procedure.

Patients who are slated to receive artificial joints are especially likely to undergo prehabilitation treatment. These patients typically have already lost a great deal of muscle strength, as they have generally been unable to exercise regularly for a period of months or years due to the underlying medical conditions that necessitate joint replacement. Lost strength and balance make recovery more difficult for such patients.

Medical prehabilitation exercises are designed to build up the strength of patients who are about to undergo surgery. Such exercises must generally be very low-impact, but even a very gentle program of targeted light exercise over the course of one or two months before surgery can produce a substantial improvement. Rehabilitation after surgery is still necessary for such patients, but careful preparation through prehab can make the process both easier and safer for many patients.


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