How To Recover From An ACL Injury 

How To Recover From An ACL Injury 

Have you recently tore or sprained your ACL and are looking for the best and quickest ways to recover? 

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction is one of the most common knee injuries that we treat here at Intecore PT. 

We specialize in ending your knee pain and getting you back to doing the things you love. 

ACL reconstruction is a type of surgery to replace the ligament which has been torn as a result of the injury. 

ACL injuries most commonly occur during sports or activities that involve sudden stops or changes in direction. 

Unfortunately, with the majority of ACL injuries time is the healer and there is no real quick fix to your recovery. 

This is because in a lot of cases surgery is required to replace the torn ligaments in the knee. 

Even partial tears and sprains of the ACL can require a couple of weeks of rest with some sessions of physical therapy. 

It’s vital that during your recovery you strengthen the muscles around your knee and improve your movement and flexibility. 

However the most important part of your recovery is to not rush back into any sport or activity where you risk aggravating your ACL or even worse tearing it again. 

A strong rehabilitation program will aid your recovery immensely. 

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Causes Of ACL Injuries 

Causes Of ACL Injuries 

ACL injuries can often happen without any warning which is why you can see any type of person with an ACL injury. 

The ACL is one of two ligaments that helps stabilize the knee joint which is why injuries occur when there is stress on the knee. 

Generally any type of movement that involves, suddenly changing direction, landing awkwardly, stopping suddenly and receiving a direct blow to the knee can cause ligament damage.

Sports injuries are the most common causes of ACL injuries however tears can happen as a result of any trauma such as a car accident or falling from height.

Symptoms and signs of an ACL injury include:

A loud popping sensation in the knee

  • Severe pain
  • Rapid swelling
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Knee giving way when weight bearing

Do I Need Surgery?

Do I Need Surgery?

This is often the question on everyone’s mind as soon as they have been diagnosed with any sort of ACL injury. 

Surgery is often recommended for those who have a completely torn ACL, particularly those who want to have an active lifestyle. 

If you’re willing to avoid high impact activity and have no other knee injury, you can live comfortably without surgery but you need to be more careful. 

Those who go for the no surgery option will likely experience some knee stability and it increases your chance of osteoarthritis in the knee as you get older. 

For those who have partial tears and sprains rest and good physical therapy can often be good enough to get you back to your old self preinjury. 

But there is increasing evidence that ACL tears that aren’t treated with surgery are at risk for future damage to the meniscus or cartilage. 

Which is why in most cases you will be recommended to have full ACL reconstruction surgery if your ACL has been torn. 

It’s particularly advised that athletes have the reconstruction surgery as without it you may not be able to return to your sport.  

Your surgeon will reconstruct the tendon tissue from another part of your body and then sew it in place of the damaged ACL. 

If you are wanting to remain active, surgery is generally the right choice for you.

Before your surgery it is recommended to have a couple of weeks of physical therapy to reduce the pain and swelling of your knee. 

Surgery is usually scheduled between three and six weeks after the injury.

After Your ACL Surgery 

After Your ACL Surgery 

The first few weeks after surgery are definitely the most important in terms of the long term results of your recovery. 

Getting a good start to your rehabilitation can take months of the recovery process however starting poorly can add months on. 

You’re usually looking at a time frame of around 9-12 months before your knee feels normal and you’re back to your old self. 

Like any surgery time is the healer and unfortunately your ACL can keep you out of action for a long time. 

In most cases you will be home on the same day you have had your surgery and you will leave on crutches. 

It typically takes around a week before you start to fully put your weight back onto your knee and come off the crutches. 

The goal of the first few weeks is to reduce swelling, regain knee extension and to fully weight bear. 

It’s important to move your ankles up and down regularly throughout the day to help keep blood circulation in your legs. 

If you are wondering about when you can drive this is typically around the two week mark when you are off crutches and can demonstrate muscle function and mobility. But please make sure you feel comfortable and confident. 

You should be booked in to see a physical therapist around the two week stage as well, this is where you can get expert advice and a suitable rehabilitation plan just for you. 

Tips To Make Recovery From ACL Injury Easier 

Tips To Make Recovery From ACL Injury Easier 

It’s important to keep focused on your recovery at all times. 

It might be easy to just sit back on the couch and do nothing but this can be damaging to your recovery.

In between sessions with your physical therapist you can try these tips to ease your pain and comfort and well as aiding your recovery:

Reduce Swelling

Swelling of the knee will be one of your biggest obstacles as you start your recovery. 

This is because swelling will reduce your range of motion as well as slowing down the healing process. 

We recommend regular intervals of RICE treatment which are rest, ice, compression and elevation. 

Keep Your Leg Elevated 

Your leg needs to be elevated as much as possible during the first few days after surgery. 

Keep your injured leg elevated at a minimum of a 45 degree angle. 

To do this you can prop your leg up on pillows so your knee is at least 12 inches about your heart. 

Make sure the pillow is around your heel and calf as if it is on the knee it can limit the motion of your knee. 

Straighten Your Knee

One of the most important things in your recovery is making sure you can straighten your knee.

Try to do knee extension exercises throughout the day attempting to get your knee a little bit straighter each time. 

If your knee does not fully straighten it can cause a permanent limp. 

Your physical therapist should give suitable exercises for different stages in your recovery. 

Bend Your Knee

Slowly begin to bend your knee, if necessary place your hands behind the knee to give it additional support as you bend. 

Usually people don’t encounter too much difficulty bending the knee after surgery but it is likely to come back with some gentle pushing. 

The reconstruction is stronger than you think and you should be able to bend your knee fully within the first few weeks of your recovery. 

Take Your Medicine 

In the early stages of your recovery your knee is going to be sore, especially if you have had surgery. 

Take the medication that your doctor has prescribed, this will help you deal with and manage the pain. 

It will allow you to increase your work on your strength and range of motion as you are able to withstand more discomfort. 

Work On Your Quads

If you are inactive for any period of time your muscles will start to waste away. 

Since the quads are one of the biggest muscle groups in the body they are often one of the first. 

Quad strength is needed to help stabilize the knee and reduce risk of further knee injuries. 

To begin with simple exercises such as squeexing the quads for 10 seconds, for 10 reps repeated throughout the day can help greatly. 

Your quads will begin to strengthen naturally the more you walk about and regain movement. 

Walk Around

It’s important to stay on crutches at the beginning, however as soon as your doctor or physical therapist is happy for you to come off them do it. 

Full weight bearing is daunting at first after surgery but it is a huge first step on the long road to recovery. 

Each step you take will strengthen your leg muscles which aids your recovery. 

Go To Physical Therapy 

Physical therapy is needed for your recovery, particularly if you are wanting to get back to a full active lifestyle after your recovery. 

Physical therapy will help you strengthen your muscles and get back to your full range of motion. 

Sessions usually begin after 2 weeks of your surgery and can go on up until the remainder of your recovery. 

We Can Help You

As we mentioned earlier here at Intercore PT ACL reconstruction is one of the more common reasons people come into our clinic. 

Our team of specialist physical therapists will put you on a recovery plan that is tailored to you and your needs only. 

If you have had successful surgery we can give you a rehabilitation program that will get you back to playing sports and living the active lifestyle you had before injury. 

You can book a free 20 minute discovery session with one of our trained physical therapists. 

During this session you will get a taste for what physical therapy is like and we’ll be able to start working on your recovery program. 

Here at Intecore we are passionate about helping people and we want to see you back to full fitness. 

We look forward to welcoming you into one of our clinics. 

Andrew Vertson