When you’re sidelined with a sports injury, rehab is often a critical part of your recovery. But physical therapy isn’t just for after an injury. Today, athletes and non-athletes alike are participating in prehab programs to prevent injuries before they happen.
That’s because prehab improves the body’s overall mechanics and increases strength where you need it most. When you have weaknesses, the body naturally compensates. The result is awkward movements and poor form that can cause an injury. Prehab addresses the body’s weak areas that can lead to these problematic movements.
Who Needs Prehab?
Prehab is a good idea for practically everyone. Whether you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior or just want to stay active, you can be at risk for muscle imbalances, instability and weakness, which can lead to injuries. Cyclists, for example, are commonly at risk for Achilles tendonitis and tight hips, so exercises that address these areas can be helpful. Or if you sit at a desk all day, you might have a weak core that could benefit from a prehab regimen designed to help increase core strength and stability.
Research shows that it can even be beneficial to complete a prehab program before a joint replacement surgery or before undergoing chemotherapy. A study in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery showed that physical therapy before total hip or total knee replacement surgery could reduce the need for post-operative care by almost 30 percent.
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What’s Involved in Prehab?
A prehab regimen largely focuses on mobility, balance, coordination, posture and stability, and a big part of that relies on working the core — the part of your body between your hips and your shoulders. You might do planks, squats, targeted stretching and other exercises.
Everyone’s prehab routine will vary, depending on their individual needs. Your physical therapist can help assess your current fitness level and recommend exercises to help address your body and its specific weaknesses.
How Long Does Prehab Last?
Your insurance might limit the number of times you can see a physical therapist, but once you understand your body’s needs and the exercises that can help you improve your strength, balance and mobility, you’ll be able to do your prehab routine at home. Most routines are simple and easy enough on the body to do most days of the week. For maximum benefit, prehab should continue for as long as you want to remain healthy and injury-free.