Pre-Hab & Urban Poling: the Secret to Speedy Post-Surgery Recovery
March 3, 2016 | By Urban Poling
Before her hip replacement surgery last year Wendy Crean, couldn’t manage a stroll around the block, and grocery shopping was out of the question.
“Walking felt like torture,” says the 70-year-old retired nurse from Toronto.
But just three months post-surgery, her health and mobility have skyrocketed. She is pain-free and back to leading an active life.
Crean credits much of her speedy recovery to “pre-hab”—a proactive pre-surgery approach to improving the body’s overall function and resilience. She accomplished this with urban poling, the contemporary version of traditional European Nordic walking.
“Before my surgery, regular walking was too painful, but with my walking poles I could really move along,” says Crean, whose pre-hab involved 30-minute walks with her poles in a local park with one or two rest stops along the way. “The poles relieved the pain, they gave me confidence and I felt really safe. I was moving my arms, I was out in the fresh air, and I felt like million bucks.”
Pre-hab has long been recommended by physiotherapists for patients undergoing planned surgeries, such as hip and knee replacements, says Dolores Langford, physiotherapy practice coordinator at Vancouver Coastal Health.
“I tell my clients that joint replacement surgery is like running a marathon,” says Langford. “If you prepare early and properly, you’ll come out stronger on the other side and bounce back much quicker.”
Langford is a big fan of urban poling for her clients. “Without the poles, pain prevents people from being active,” she says. “But you can put your weight into the poles and take pressure off your joints. This reduces people’s pain and increases their walking tolerance and confidence. People can walk further with them plus use them to help with their balance and strengthening exercises.”
The ergonomic handles are an important feature of the poles that Langford particularly appreciates.
“People with hip and knee arthritis often also have arthritis in other joints,” she says. “The large handles don’t aggravate people’s hands because they’re more comfortable and easier to grip than other styles of poles.”
For moderately steep slopes, simply decrease the pressure on the base of the handles or drag your poles behind you. For steep slopes, keep your poles upright and in front and out to the side slightly, so if you do fall you won’t land on your poles. Bend your knees and elbows, and slow down any momentum. For long descents, it may be helpful to lengthen the poles.
–Barb Gormley, Director of Education