Prehabilitation, or “prehab,” is a form of rehabilitation designed to increase one’s ability to function in anticipation of an upcoming surgery or other major medical treatment.

Scientific evidence supports the value of preparing patients for optimizing their health prior to treatments and/or surgery.

The multidisciplinary team at OSF Rehabilitation is here to help patients optimize their outcomes and maintain a desired level of quality of life and well–being.

Prehabilitation interventions will be tailored to each individual’s needs following the evaluation of many factors, including the patient’s diagnosis, treatment plan and any other pre-existing health conditions.

Benefits of Prehabilitation

Evidence-based research shows prehabilitation:

  • Helps patients feel better and/or stronger and improves functioning before treatment
  • Prepares patients for the physical challenges faced following treatment
  • Improves patient psychological outcomes
  • Decreases hospital readmissions
  • Reduces health care costs.

Depending on the patient’s diagnosis and functional limitations, our health care team might recommend interventions such as specific exercises to improve strength and endurance, nutrition counseling, and/or strategies that can help decrease stress prior to the start of treatment.

Types of Prehabilitation

Orthopedic Prehabilitation

Patients with an orthopedic issue may benefit from a prehab program in order to improve functional capacity prior to a procedure.  With more involved procedures, such as total joint replacements, research has shown improved outcomes following surgery with patients who participated in some form of prehab.

Pelvic Floor Prehabilitation

Men and women anticipating pelvic surgery such as prostatectomy, TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate), or bladder sling placement can benefit from exercises guided by a physical therapist in order to strengthen the pelvic floor.

The earlier the pelvic floor muscles are strengthened and these exercises are a part of a regular routine, the better the outcomes.

Patients visit with a physical therapist before surgery to learn the exercises and establish a regular exercise routine.

Other topics addressed with the physical therapist will be lifestyle modification, urge control techniques, and body mechanics training.

Cancer Prehabilitation

OSF Rehabilitation is dedicated to helping cancer survivors function at the highest level possible. Cancer treatment can often cause significant pain, fatigue, and disability for survivors.

Through our program, our goal is to minimize these and to encourage cancer survivors to have the best quality of life possible.

The cancer rehabilitation program provides patients with comprehensive cancer prehabilitation and rehabilitation supported by a team of certified clinicians and providers.

Head and Neck Cancer Prehabilitation

Individuals with head and neck cancer who are scheduled to undergo surgery or treatment may benefit from prehabilitation support.

Treatment for head and neck cancers often changes the patient’s ability to chew, swallow, or talk. A physical therapist will prescribe swallowing exercises prior to surgery and chemo-radiation to help improve swallowing outcomes after treatment.

Better swallowing outcomes lead to the patient being able to eat, which in turn prevents weight loss, improves overall energy and strength, and leads to a quicker recovery.

Breast Cancer Prehabilitation

A woman with breast cancer who is scheduled to undergo a mastectomy and/or breast reconstruction may benefit from prehabilitation support.

A physical therapist can prescribe upper-body strengthening and range-of-motion exercises that may reduce the risk of postoperative pain and other complications such as “frozen shoulder.”

Prehabilitation can also emotionally support women dealing with a new diagnosis of breast cancer.

OSF providers can teach women specific mind-body skills to decrease stress

What to Expect

The first visit will take a little longer, approximately 45 minutes to an hour. This provides the therapist time to talk with you and gather information and measurements, as well as discuss an appropriate course of action.

The therapist will likely give you a home exercise program to get you started on the road to recovery.

How to Get Started

Typically, you will need to contact your Primary Care Provider to get a referral for physical therapy sent to the OSF location of your choice. However, certain insurance companies do allow their clients to attend therapy without a referral.  This is called Direct Access.   Please reach out to your insurance company to determine if you qualify for Direct Access. 

Once the order has been received by your chosen therapy location, they will contact you to schedule an appointment for your initial evaluation. After the evaluating therapist has performed the assessment, they will work with you to determine your Plan of Care or how many more visits you may require.

What to Bring

Please bring your insurance card and a photo ID. Please wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

When to Arrive

Arrive about 15 minutes prior to your first scheduled visit to complete your registration process. For children under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must be present for the initial appointment.