Why PreHab Matters: Celebrity Aquatic Therapy Specialist Explains

Lynda Huey pioneered water training in the 1980's with top-tier Olympic and professional athletes. Her 30+ year roster of professional athletes and celebrities has carved out her own celebrity within the physical therapy world. Lynda has authored six books on water exercise and rehab, designs therapy pools for hospitals and clinics, and speaks internationally about the importance of aquatic therapy.

We're thrilled to have Lynda Huey contribute this article on her experience with PreHab and "why PreHab matters" for athletes and joint replacement candidates alike.

Why PreHab Matters

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by Lynda Huey, Celebrity Aquatic Therapy Specialist

I first heard the word “PreHab” in 1997 when I was writing Heal Your Hips with orthopedic surgeon Robert Klapper, M.D., Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Group. We wanted our readers to understand that they could begin training in the pool and regain strength and mobility even though they were unable to exercise well on land with a sore hip. So we offered my pool program. If people were able to earn back full function and eliminate their pain, they would be able to prevent surgery. But if they were able only to do a portion of that job, and if they still ended up needing surgery, we saw that we had accomplished a different kind of objective for them: we had prepared them for the rigors of surgery.

PreHab has now become commonplace, but twenty years ago, it was quite a novel idea.

You would suggest PreHab to someone who had hip, knee, or back surgery scheduled a few months in the future and they would look at your with a scowl on their face. But then athletes began training for surgery and discovering the huge benefits – they could move more easily and more quickly following surgery. Their athletic instincts told them that if they were strong, strong, strong going into the operating room, that they wouldn’t slide so far back into decline afterward. And they were right!

Former NBA great, Wilt Chamberlain, was a champion of life-long fitness. No matter what surgery he was planning or recovering from, he found a way to work out and stay fit. Together, he and I did pool workouts before and after three orthopedic surgeries. He loved my Kicking Series, which he took to extremes, doing each of the eight kicks for two full minutes at high intensity. (Most athletes did them for one minute each, already a good muscle burn for the core muscles, gluteals, quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings.)

Three-time track and field Olympian Pat Connolly had both knees replaced in her late sixties. “I trained for surgery like I trained for the Games,” she told me. She took it very seriously and followed a strict training program for strength gains in her quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. She bounced back quickly to bicycling.

And just this week, I went to the home of an A-List film, TV, and stage actor who wants to get ready for knee surgery. He’s off to shoot on location for three weeks and wants a pool program to do every day so he doesn’t lose three weeks of workouts in the final two months before his surgical date. The idea of training for surgery made sense to this former athlete-turned-actor.

But what about people who’ve been inactive for months or even years, due to growing pain and dysfunction? Why should they go through the discomfort of getting those “rusty” joints and muscles going beforehand? Because surgery takes people down. There’s no way around it. Without doing some building up prior to surgery, they will become weaker after surgery and will physically go down farther.

What if, instead of that, they began the recovery process before surgery, started rising upward?

Then it wouldn’t be so hard to climb up from the decline and keep on with the activities they’ve already turned into a routine.

Non-athletes are now taking the idea to heart. They are doing PreHab with full intention of being more capable more quickly after joint replacement surgery. Instead of waiting a day or two or even a week to move around comfortably, some are starting gait training (walking) with the physical therapist in their hospital room immediately after being wheeled in from the recovery room. That’s what I call a very good head start – and well worth some weeks or even months of PreHab!

Are you considering joint replacement surgery? Once your surgery day is set, we urge you to start PreHab to prepare your body for the procedure and jumpstart your recovery. Join PeerWell today (it's free) and get a daily, cutting-edge PreHab program on your smartphone.

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