Pre-Hab for Athletes: Preventing Joint Pain Before it Starts

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Say you are a person who has been training hard for years, and now you start getting subtle niggles that will not go away quickly. Or you may be playing sports and experience frequent injuries like ankle sprains.

As our demand grows to make our bodies work correctly, the likelihood of sustaining injuries also rises. Moreover, any deviation from that pattern can render us vulnerable and prone to injury if we consistently engage in repetitive movements.

Known as a proactive conditioning method, prehabilitation aims to prevent injuries and joint pain. It is a program designed to build athlete joint resilience for every individual. 

This blog will help readers understand the importance of prehabilitation for athletes and the regular exercises to perform to prevent joint pain.

What is Athlete Pre-habilitation?

Pre-habilitation program is a series of exercises that help improve performance and reduce injury risks for weekend warriors, professional athletes, and people who wish to perform exercises for overall health improvements.

The minor pains developed during the injury for the athletes may lead to repetitive micro-trauma to the bones, tendons, and joints that cause excessive strain or stress on specific body areas.

So, pre-hab exercises are all about preparing the body to execute physical activities by improving flexibility and strengthening joint muscles. Prehab aims to prevent the injury before it takes place. 

It allows a more comfortable recovery and addresses physical fitness, lifestyle, psychological barriers to healing, and nutrition after surgery. Pre-habilitation is typically categorised into two types: pre-hab for injury prevention and pre-hab for surgical recovery.

In the case of surgical recovery, pre-hab is done before the patient undergoes surgery, resulting in an easy recovery period. For injury prevention, pre-hab is used to understand the patient’s problem and strengthen and protect against any physical damage.

Pre-hab for surgery

Pre-habilitation during a surgical procedure helps your body reduce recovery time. The stronger you are before surgery, the more you have chances to meet the physical milestones after surgery.

Pre-hab for injury prevention

Pre-habilitation can be a valuable asset if you tend to get injured or are susceptible to injuries. To identify the areas of concern, you will undergo a comprehensive assessment with your physical therapist to determine the components of your treatment plan. These plans usually incorporate pain management techniques, exercises, and stretches to address problem areas prone to injuries.

Pre-hab Exercises for Athletes

Use pre-hab exercises to stabilize your body and potentially prevent future injuries. It is used to challenge the athletes in core stability, strength and movement and prepare the body for more sporting demands.

The athletic performance optimization varies depending on the previous accidents and the disciplinary behaviours. Here are some examples of joint mobility exercises and joint-friendly workouts that can be used for sports injury prevention.

Here are some of the examples of pre-hab exercises for joint strength:

  • Banded Face Pull (shoulder joint strength) 
  • Cossack Squat (hip mobility and lower body strength) 
  • DB plank Rotations (core stability and shoulder strength)
  • Banded Terminal Knee Extension (knee & quadriceps strength) 
  • Single-leg balance Board Ball Catch (stability) 

How does it help?

Prehab exercises will help you improve three processes, mobility, activation, and stabilization, that come as a planned part of your exercise routine.

  • Mobility is done to improve your flexibility on a collective basis.
  • Activation refers to attempting to stimulate specific muscle groups or inducing deliberate contractions that are not adequately engaged to initiate movement.
  • Stabilization is the process of controlling movement or generating coordination.

Effects of Pre-Hab Exercises Before Joint Pain

Practice is vital to several pre-hab exercise movements as it drastically reduces joint pain for athletes. Some people have an assumption that exercise can hurt a joint with arthritis. But it may help essentially to help you cope with pain, calm your fear, and motivate you to stay active after surgery. It is a wise idea to strengthen both joints before surgery. This will play a vital role in preventing imbalances during recovery.

Here are some of the surgeries where you can use pre-hab as an option:

1. Pre-hab for Hip Replacement Surgery

Research and studies have shown that hip replacement patients who underwent prehab programs reduced inpatient care needs after surgery by up to 73%. Prehab for a hip replacement starts recovery and helps individuals in active functioning post-operation.

2. Pre-hab for Knee Replacement Surgery

Recovering a complete knee range of motion following a knee replacement can be challenging, but preparing yourself before the surgery can significantly facilitate your rehabilitation process. Pre-surgery rehabilitation, also known as prehab, aims to initiate exercises that enhance strength, flexibility, motion, balance, and overall physical well-being.

Benefits of pre-hab for athletes

Typically, individuals in better physical condition before surgery tend to experience a faster and more efficient recovery process. Research has indicated that individuals who engage in prehabilitation can resume their daily activities quicker and with greater ease than those who do not.

Prehab reduces complications, shortens hospital stays, and lessens post-operative pain. Surgeons and physical therapists can better understand a patient’s physical abilities and limitations by accessing information about their functional capabilities. This knowledge is crucial in guiding post-surgery rehabilitation and setting more attainable goals for the patient’s recovery.

Research shows that prehab for 4-8 weeks before total knee replacement for severe osteoarthritis contributed to the recovery of post-operative cases that strengthened the leg and helped to perform functional tasks. Prehab may also help people having surgery for spine issues, ligament tears, shoulder injuries or hip replacement, among other orthopaedic cases.

To optimize its advantages, it is recommended to commence prehabilitation at least six weeks before the scheduled orthopaedic surgery. Despite the potential discomfort or restricted mobility that may discourage you from considering exercise before the surgery, dedicating time and effort to it is frequently rewarding. This proactive approach can expedite your return to daily routines and facilitate a more comprehensive recovery post-surgery.

How do you avoid joint pain as an athlete?

Choosing the appropriate athlete’s joint care is essential for immediate pain ease. Whether you have been practising running with pain or ankle swelling or are an athlete with shoulder pain, it is necessary to consult a doctor as soon as you start to experience the symptoms of joint pain. 

  • Bracing for stability – Treating osteoarthritis in the joints in a non-surgical manner.
  • Medications – Using pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain with the doctor’s consultation. It can be oral medicines, injections, topicals, etc.
  • Lifestyle changes – Consuming foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids and working on physical activities such as walking and swimming.

Pre-injury prevention for athletes

Here are some of the steps used as preventive measures for joint pain:

  • There are sports joint wellness and injury-free training programs online that help athletes stay proactive.
  • You can form a fitness plan that includes strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and flexibility to minimise your chance of injury.
  • Perform alternate exercising for different muscle groups every day.
  • You should make your body cool down appropriately after exercise.
  • Stay hydrated to prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
  • Stretching exercises enhance muscle abilities to contract and perform, reducing the risk of injury. 
  • Ensure that you utilize the appropriate equipment or gear and opt for footwear that offers ample support, which can effectively address specific foot issues that may result in potential injuries.
  • It is crucial to undergo sufficient rehabilitation after experiencing a sports injury before engaging in intense physical activity again.

Final Points

Pre-habilitation is not reserved for only trained athletes. It is generally used to reduce recovery time, minimise injuries, and improve accuracy. Injuries can happen anytime, so pre-hab exercises can help you enhance your overall strength.

Physical therapy extends beyond injury prevention and treatment. All your functional requirements are considered, and activities to enhance psychological well-being are implemented through pre-hab!


1. What is the purpose of pre-habilitation?

Prehabilitation aims to improve overall health and well-being before undergoing significant surgery. By intervening during the preoperative phase to alter behavioural and lifestyle risk factors, the patient’s physiological reserve is strengthened, enabling them to cope better with the stress of surgery.

2. Should you prehab after a workout? 

No, it should be performed before a workout to fortify your body for a pain-free exercise session.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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