During my athletic career, I was impressed by the knowledge and understanding of the physical therapists that helped me. Unfortunately, I almost always had to be injured before I would benefit from their expertise. It made no sense to me to wait until I was hurt before addressing my physical weaknesses ; I wanted something more pro-active. Prehabilitation (prehab) is the act of applying rehab principles to healthy individuals in order to prevent injury and enhance physical performance.
Rehabilitative principles are applied in a step-by-step fashion, to ensure that the body is not forced to do anything that it is not ready for. I will outline some of these steps, and give you examples of why each could be important to you:
Reduce Pain and Inflammation
Pain or inflammation in a joint causes key muscles to be deactivated, as well leads to patterns of avoidance. Running with a sore back for instance can train key stabilizing muscles not to work, leading to instability of the back long term, and can cause you to adopt habits that could make you a slower runner in the long term.
Ensure Proper Joint Motion and Stability
Tight ankles, especially one sided, can cause rotation through the entire body, cause unequal wear and tear of joints, overuse of other joints, and poor balance. Weak hamstring muscles can increase your likelihood of tearing ligaments in your knee.
Efficient Movement and Posture
Your technique when you exercise determines which muscles get strong, which ones stay long and supple, which joints get stressed, and how tired you get. Anti-inflammatory herbs or medications may help for your knee pain, but if the cause of the knee pain is the way you walk or run, then your pain will always recur.
Notice that none of the above steps have much to do with general fitness; someone can be very strong or fit, and still fail some of these steps. Every day, people are exercising or performing simple daily tasks with limitations in the above categories, and those seemingly healthy activities can be making them unhealthy. Don’t wait until you are unsatisfied with your physical health; learn about your physical limitations and what you can do about them right now.