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In an attempt to salvage supplies and resources during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, many U.S. hospitals and medical institutions have opted to postpone elective surgeries. 

This includes non-emergency surgeries scheduled to relieve pain and repair injuries related to the musculoskeletal system – arthroscopy, ligament and tendon repairs, joint replacement surgeries, and so on. 

Despite these delays, those whose surgeries were delayed need not sit back and suffer. Physical therapy can be a proactive way to reduce pain while increasing mobility and function until surgeries can be rescheduled.  

The goal of physical therapy – whether it’s an in-persona appointment or a virtual “telehealth” visit – is to help people improve their quality of lives by optimizing movement and reducing pain naturally. 

In a lot of cases, physical therapists can help people avoid the need for surgery. But, even if surgery is in your future, PTs can help you live a more comfortable and active life as you’re waiting to reschedule your procedure. 

Prehabilitation 

Physical therapists can also help patients prepare themselves for surgery, strengthening their bodies so that they recover faster and without complication. 

Known as prehabilitation, or “prehab,” the goal is to prepare the body for both the surgery itself and the rehabilitation effort that follows. 

Prehabilitation is based on the simple philosophy that the stronger and more balanced your body and muscles are before orthopedic surgery, the stronger and better off you’ll be after. Multiple studies have shown this to be an effective strategy. 

A study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, for example, found that taking part in a physical therapy program before joint replacement surgery – a prehabilitation program – can reduce the need for post-operative care by nearly 30 percent. 

The reason: when a person has reached the point where they need orthopedic surgery, their bodies have oftentimes become accustomed to compensating for pain and certain impairments. 

By seeing a physical therapist before surgery, she or he can address any bad movement habits, weaknesses or flexibility issues that can impede the rehab process post-surgery. 

Pre-Surgery Anxiety 

As surgeries are delayed, this can also lead to great patient anxiety. 

Working with a physical therapist during this period, however, can help reduce this anxiety while PTs better prepare patients for the mental strain of surgery and rehabilitation. 

Physical therapists pride themselves on being educators. For those preparing for surgery, this includes educating people about what to expect immediately after surgery and coach them on exercises they’ll need to know during the rehab process – all of which can ease anxiety. 

If your orthopedic surgery has been delayed due to COVID-19, and you wish to stay active and pain-free leading up to surgery, contact a physical therapist to schedule an initial assessment.