Preparing for Surgery: The Importance of Pre-Surgery Exercise and Stretching


By: Dr. Andrew Schreiner PT, DPT, OCS

As a physical therapist, one of the most critical aspects of my job is to help patients optimize their recovery and enhance their overall well-being. When it comes to preparing for surgery, many individuals might not realize the profound impact that pre-surgery exercise and stretching can have on their post-operative outcomes. In this blog post, we will delve into the significance of pre-surgery exercise and stretching and how they can contribute to a smoother recovery process.

The Importance of Pre-Surgery Exercise:

  1. Strengthening Muscles: Pre-surgery exercise is an opportunity to strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected area. Strong muscles provide better support to the surgical site, reducing the risk of complications and post-operative pain. Additionally, enhanced muscle strength can speed up recovery and enable patients to regain their functional abilities more quickly.
  2. Improving Circulation: Engaging in physical activity prior to surgery enhances blood circulation throughout the body. Improved circulation aids in better nutrient delivery and waste removal, promoting faster healing and reducing the likelihood of complications like blood clots.
  3. Boosting Immune Function: Regular exercise has been shown to boost the immune system’s function. This is particularly important before surgery since a robust immune system can help prevent infections and support the body’s healing processes.
  4. Mental Preparation: Undergoing surgery can be a stressful experience, and pre-surgery exercise can be an excellent way to alleviate some of that stress. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones, promoting a positive mindset and reducing anxiety.

The Significance of Pre-Surgery Stretching:

  1. Enhancing Flexibility: Pre-surgery stretching helps improve flexibility, which can be beneficial during post-operative rehabilitation. Increased flexibility can ease the process of regaining joint range of motion and prevent complications like joint stiffness.
  2. Reducing Muscle Tension: Many patients experience muscle tension or tightness leading up to surgery, often due to anxiety or physical discomfort. Stretching can help alleviate these issues, enhancing comfort before surgery and possibly improving sleep quality.
  3. Promoting Mind-Body Connection: Stretching exercises often involve controlled breathing and mindfulness, which can be useful in promoting a strong mind-body connection. This heightened awareness can aid patients in managing post-surgery pain and adhering to their rehabilitation plan.

Safe Pre-Surgery Exercise and Stretching:

Before starting any pre-surgery exercise or stretching routine, it is crucial for patients to consult with their healthcare provider or physical therapist. Each individual’s medical condition and surgical procedure are unique, and a personalized approach is necessary to ensure safety and effectiveness.

  1. Specificity: The exercise and stretching routine should be tailored to the individual’s needs, focusing on the muscles and joints that will be directly impacted by the surgery.
  2. Gradual Progression: Patients should begin with exercises and stretches that are well within their comfort level and gradually progress as their strength and flexibility improve.
  3. Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Adequate warm-up before exercising and gentle cool-down stretches afterward are essential to prevent injuries and promote better outcomes.
  4. Proper Technique: It is essential to perform exercises and stretches with proper form to avoid straining or causing additional harm.


Incorporating pre-surgery exercise and stretching into the preparation process can be immensely beneficial for individuals undergoing surgery. Strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, and reducing tension all contribute to a smoother recovery journey. However, it is crucial to work closely with a healthcare provider or a physical therapist to ensure that the chosen exercises are appropriate and safe for each patient’s unique needs. By taking this proactive step, patients can set the stage for a successful surgery and expedite their return to an active and healthy lifestyle.

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