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While naturopathic physicians often focus on treating the underlying cause of a patient’s concerns with regenerative therapies, there are cases where a higher force intervention, such as a surgical procedure, is warranted. It is vital in these situations to support the body in recovery and healing. Improving functional capacity prior to an orthopedic procedure can help to maintain a higher level of functional ability and recover more rapidly during post-procedural rehabilitation.

Pre-habilitation is the process of enhancing a patient’s potential to enable them to withstand the impact associated with an orthopedic procedure. Aside from the importance of physically incorporating resistance training, flexibility, and practicing functional tasks, it is important to also consider the deeper tissues and organs. Here are a few areas to prepare your body for an orthopedic procedure.

Nutrition

Getting prepared for surgery takes meal planning. Consider pre-surgery nutrition as similar to getting ready for a marathon or athletic event. This is a procedure that creates stress on the body, and wholesome nutrition holds a benefit. It is important to consume enough protein, starting at least one to two weeks prior to surgery. Protein provides building blocks for muscles, bones, and the immune system. Protein needs are based on the amount of muscle mass that someone has, but most professionals agree that 65 – 100 grams per day are optimal. Furthermore, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, specifically greens, is helpful to repair muscles, bones, and cartilage as they contain valuable vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, K and magnesium. Equally important is to reduce additional sugars, caffeine, and alcohol, as these items create more inflammation and can even deplete nutrients from the body.

Exercise

In the week before a surgery, it is recommended to stay active by engaging in your favorite form of exercise, such as walking, swimming, playing tennis, or stretching.

Researchers have evaluated knee- and hip-replacement surgery patients who participated in six weeks of pre-surgery workouts, including aquatic and land-based strength training, and aerobic and flexibility exercises. It was found that these participants reduced their chances of needing in-patient rehabilitation by 73 percent. Consider joining a yoga class to help prepare both mind and body for surgery.

Supplemental support

Undergoing surgery places patients at higher risk for infection and increases the labor of the immune system. Utilizing quality nutritional supplementation, under the care of a medical professional, in the weeks before and following the operation can aid in recuperation. Many surgeons recommend commercially available non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). While these medications can help reduce inflammation, it is important use these judiciously to prevent compromising other aspects of health. NSAIDs are known to cause ulcers when used in excess, and in severe cases, may even degrade the integrity of the colon. Additionally, even when taken in therapeutic quantities, NSAIDs may slow wound healing and thin the blood, which makes them an imperfect solution at a time when healing is vital.

Research examining the impact of fish oil on postoperative outcomes found that patients who received fish oil experienced 33.3% reduced liver dysfunction caused by inflammation and 27.8% fewer infections. Furthermore, the patients who were supplemented with fish oil displayed lower levels of pro-inflammatory molecules.2

Vitamin C provides the most crucial support for connective tissue and is a building block of collagen formation. Homeopathic arnica may help with pain in addition to reducing swelling and bruising. Bromelain, a pineapple enzyme, also helps to reduce swelling and supports a healthy inflammatory response. It is important to remember that supplements are usually recommended to be discontinued at some point prior to surgery. These can be resumed at the appropriate time following the procedure. It is essential to consult a healthcare provider, specifically trained in the proper use of these supplements, to determine the optimal regimen.

Conclusion

While rehabilitation is a key aspect of functional outcomes, adopting a pre-habilitation program can makes a critical difference in post-surgery pain and recovery time. Simple actions such as a few days of gentle stretching and healthy meals prior to a procedure can make all the difference.

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