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What is Prehab and Do I Need It?

By Pauline Tran-Garcia, PT, DPT


There’s a new term in the physical therapy world called “prehab” which is short for “prehabilitation.” Physical therapy is more commonly recognized for rehabilitation, also referred to as “rehab,” however the term “pre-” suggests “before.” 


Why should you have prehab?



Making home preparations prior to surgery including home modifications, equipment purchases, and equipment use can decrease your stress and improve your ability to heal. For example, some individuals need walkers, canes, or crutches after surgery. Our therapists can help teach you how to use your equipment prior to having surgery. 

Home Modifications & Equipment Purchases

Consider getting a toilet set riser and a stable bench or chair for your shower. Make sure to remove rugs, secure stairway handrails, and get a sturdy chair with a footstool to elevate your leg.

Reduce Pain

Some treatments we can teach you may reduce your pain including modifying activities, instructions of heat versus ice, or both and finding comfortable sleeping positions. 

Gain Strength

Increasing your muscle strength may improve your rehab potential afterward. Having strength in other areas to help with the use of assistive devices for mobility, will help as well. 

To Measure Progress

Physical therapy in preparation for surgery helps us track your capabilities including function, range of motion, and strength. Knowing your starting point allows us to review and compare your progress. 


When Should I have Prehab?


The sooner the better. Physical therapy can be used as a preventative measure and in some cases, you can even postpone surgery with physical therapy.


What does recovery after a total knee replacement look like?


Recovery will differ between individuals based on several factors. Generally, it can take anywhere for 3-6 months with regular physical therapy.


Month 1

Priorities are to reduce swelling, pain, and restore range of motion. After the joint has been replaced, the muscles will need to adapt to its new capabilities. We will monitor the incision for proper healing and prescribe exercises to help increase your knee’s flexibility.

Month 2

With help from your therapist at FYZICAL – Forest Grove you will likely be working on the last 10-15 degrees of knee bending while working on standing exercises. You should be able to walk comfortably without a walker/cane (also depends on an individual’s other health conditions) and go up the stairs without pain. Going down the stairs will be better by month three.

Month 3-6

Going down stairs will start to get easier. Range of motion should be nearly normal (120 degrees or more) to be able to squat, get on/off the floor, and walk without an assistive device (also dependent on other health conditions).


It is highly recommended to get prehab before having a total knee replacement. Your therapist at FYZICAL – Forest Grove will help guide and strengthen you for what is to come. 


Have questions about prehab and recovery of a total knee replacement? Contact us to schedule a free consultation.


Do you know someone who could use this information? Forward it via email, Facebook, or Twitter through the links at the top of this page. 



Pauline Tran-Garcia, PT, DPT

Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.



Pruthi, Sandhya, “Knee Replacement,” The Mayo Clinic, accessed June 24, 2021,