Prehabilitation: What Is It and Why Do I Need It?

Prehabilitation, aka prehab or preoperative rehabilitation, is your key to a better surgical outcome. Whether it’s a small, outpatient procedure that will keep you off your feet for a few days or major surgery with months of recovery ahead, proper preparation is important. And that’s where prehab comes in.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), prehabilitation consists of lifestyle and behavioral changes designed to increase the functional capacity of the body before a surgery or procedure. The stronger and healthier the body is before a procedure, the better and faster it will heal afterward. Prehabilitation focuses on four major components: exercise, nutrition, mentality, and lifestyle changes.

Four Aspects of Prehabilitation


Although every prehabilitation plan should be customized to each individual patient, generally the first focus will be on exercise. Exercise has multiple benefits, such as helping us lose weight which increases general health. Functional exercises also help us strengthen ligaments and muscles that we use for everyday tasks. Your exercise plan may include a warm-up, a cardiovascular component, a weight training component, and flexibility exercises.

The idea is to build up extra strength in muscles and ligaments before the inactivity that generally comes after a surgical procedure. Discontinuing the use of a muscle for extended periods of time can cause it to atrophy or lose strength. Exercise also stimulates blood flow and keeps the body’s systems operating smoothly, all of which will aid in the future healing process.


Our bodies need the correct fuel to keep running at optimal performance. Along with exercise, nutrition is critical for preparing the body for surgery. The focus should be on optimizing our nutrient intake. This means eating more fruits and veggies, cutting down on sugars, and focusing on fueling the body, not just pleasing the mouth.

During healing your body needs more of pretty much everything—calories, protein, fluids, vitamins, and more. Most of these nutrients should come from the healthy and well-rounded meals you eat after surgery. Starting to enact any dietary changes before surgery can help sustain your healthy eating habits afterward.


When it comes to healing, attitude is important. Mental stress can manifest as physical stress within the body. Surgical patients need a positive mindset toward their outcome. If you truly believe in getting better, then you’ll be engaged in the self-care needed in both prehabilitation and rehabilitation.

Having a good mindset also means reducing stress and worry. Your FAAWC surgeon is here to answer any lingering questions you have about your procedure or your recovery. We’re here to listen to you and build a surgical plan around your mobility goals. Reducing mental stress before surgery is critical to achieving healing.

Lifestyle Changes

When it comes to foot or ankle surgery, there are other various lifestyle changes and behavior modifications that may become necessary. One common aspect of change includes footwear. You may be trading in your stilettos for a pair of low pumps or forgoing flip flops to wear supportive tennis shoes instead. Orthotics are also commonly prescribed to correct underlying foot problems and aid in healing and future prevention. You may also need to modify your behaviors, including your exercise habits. Substituting some low-impact activities like swimming for high-impact ones like running is highly recommended.

With all these changes, prehabilitation can feel like a lot of work. But research shows that focusing on exercise, nutrition, mentality, and lifestyle changes before surgery can increase the positive outcomes that result. If you want faster and easier healing, talk to your FAAWC surgeon about a prehabilitation plan today.

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