Prehabilitation is a Proactive/preventive approach to manual therapy, exercise, diet and lifestyle, designed to maximise health and wellness, and minimise individual risks for injury and disease. Well-studied in human medicine, prehabilitation is found to be valuable in ‘high risk’, aged, frail or obese patients, as well as younger patients who wish to maximise their athletic performance or if injured and facing surgery, to return to their chosen sports as soon as possible. It is especially valuable when an animal is requiring surgery, and as a pre-operative approach integrates biomechanical assessment and appropriate manual therapy treatment, individualised home exercises plus diet and lifestyle advice in advance of surgery. Prehabilitation has been shown to promote lower complication rates and earlier restoration of functional activities and status during the recovery from surgery. Good quality systematic reviews show a positive impact of pre-operative exercise therapy on physical function, quality of life, postoperative complications and length of hospital stay.
Most animals have been developing compensations for minor slips, trips and falls for many months or years prior to pain or lameness becoming evident. Individualised prehabilitation helps to make sure the animal is moving well and has the best possible strength prior to undergoing surgery. This is believed to help improve the outcomes of surgery by promoting healthy circulation, minimising inflammation, reducing pain related behaviour and movement limitations, reducing strain on the healing tissues and as a bonus will often reduce the animals reliance upon medication to control inflammation and pain both before and after the surgery.
Rehabilitation takes a similar approach around the inclusion of biomechanical assessment and appropriate manual therapy treatment, individualised home exercise, diet and lifestyle advice in respect to promoting the most efficient and successful recovery after orthopaedic surgery or acute injury. Rehabilitation typically follows a pattern guided by the natural healing mechanisms within the associated tissues.
Inflammation is the main factor to manage for the first 2 – 4 weeks depending on the individual situation. This typically includes medication and rest, however these can also be complimented by gentle therapeutic options such as lymphatic drainage, laser and kinesiology taping to help the tissues clear the active inflammation and bring fresh blood supply into the healing tissues. Treatment is always considered on a case by case basis in conjunction with veterinary advice, as individual factors play a large role in the suitability of therapies during the acute stage. Gentle modalities such as laser, kinesiotaping and lymphatic drainage often appropriate immediately post surgery, and specific home exercises may be able to help maintain the nervous and muscular system function in relation to the injury.
Weeks 5-8, are crucial in ensuring the affected tissues are building their passive and active function in a symmetrical and biomechanically correct manner in order to ensure that the repairing tissue is as healthy and functional as possible. Again, passive and active techniques, more advanced exercises and modalities may be applied as appropriate to promote healthy tissue repair.
Remodelling, during weeks 9-12 is when the fun really begins. This is where, if previous stages have been completed with success, we can really start to challenge the body while still being aware there is much change still happening within the healing tissues. Monitoring the dog during this period is particularly important as they often begin to feel ‘like new’ and can easily overdo it. Rehab exercises can increase in complexity as we challenge both the musculoskeletal tissues as well as the nervous system which controls healthy movement.
Months 3 – 6 are the cherry on top as far as rehabilitation goes. While it may seem as though the dog is back to normal, it is very important to continue monitoring them for any signs that their tissues aren’t strengthening symmetrically or fully. Owners are coached on how to monitor their animals for small asymmetries or movement patterns in their own animals specific case, to help pick up early signs of trouble. This helps to reduce the likelihood of long term development of osteoarthritic changes that are common when surgical procedures have occurred. Typically at this stage home exercises should be part of normal daily life, with lifestyle changes well integrated to help the animal continue well into their older years. I always aim to make these lifestyle factors and exercises as easy to integrate into daily life as possible, which makes it significantly more likely that they will be maintained through the animals lifetime.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss how Osteopathy and ABM can help your individual animal, with their own specific requirements be their very best.
If you are already struggling with an adult dog who has uneven movement patterns there is plenty you can do to improve their comfort by introducing a routine of safe stretches and exercises. I have compiled a comprehensive range of these within my eBook – The Canine Athlete Warm-Up and Cool-down Manual, which is a safe way for you to start exploring better musculoskeletal health for almost any dog. Check it out HERE or get in touch if you’re uncertain how to get started for your specific dog’s problems.