Recovery from ACL surgery

What is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

An anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, the injury is a tear in one of the 4 ligaments that make up the knee joint.  The ACL is considered to be a stabilizing ligament. 

Recovery from ACL Surgery takes about 9 months.Recovery from ACL Reconstruction Surgery

What causes an ACL Injury?

An ACL injury is caused when the knee is bent side to side, twisted, or hyperextended (straightening of the knee beyond the normal limits).

Typical Situations that can cause ACL injury:

  • Having your foot planted to the ground and quickly changing directions.  (Typical sports, basketball, football, soccer, gymnastics, golf). 
  • Jumping up and landing with the leg straight or slightly bent.
  • Walking down stairs, stepping in a hole, falling off a ladder.  

An ACL injury can occur in these incidents when the leg is straight or slightly bent and caused by a sudden stoppage. 

Is ACL Surgery a Major Surgery?

The quick answer, yes. This is a major surgery that replaces or reconstructs a torn anterior cruciate ligament ( ACL ).  There are other structure that might have been involved such as other torn ligaments or damage to cartilages(s). To learn more about the ACL watch this VIDEO

Does ACL Surgery Hurt?

This all depends on the individual but typically this surgery does hurt due to post op swelling and inflammation.  It is advised to take the prescribed medications as well as maintain rest, icing, elevation and compression to the area.

What Can I Expect After ACL Surgery?

After ACL surgery you can expect the knee to be swollen, painful, red and numb.  This is very common since this type of surgery is major.  You can expect to have a post op knee stabilizer brace on, wrapped with ACE bandages and the surgery sites covered with gauze.  Your MD, depending on there protocol might send you to physical therapy 2-3 day after surgery. Read this ARTICLE for Frequently Asked Questions about ACL

After Surgery: Expectations of ACL Surgery Recovery

First, every individual’s healing process is different, so your recovery from ACL surgery might vary from person to person.  Also, some doctor’s have different rehabilitation protocols, so make sure you understand everything the doctor says about your rehabilitation protocols.  Feel free to ask as many questions with your doctor and/or therapist about the recovery of ACL surgery.    

Phase 1: 0-2 Weeks

The first two weeks are crucial when it comes to recovery from ACL surgery.  Since surgery is a traumatic experience on your body, the body responds with inflammation.  During this time you might experience pain, fluid build up around the knee joint, and soreness. 

Most times, the rehabilitation begins immediately following surgery to help with your recovery.  For the first 2 weeks, you will be a non-weight bearing or weight bearing as tolerated depending on your physician on the affected leg by using crutches and a brace. 

Phase 2: 2-6 weeks  

The healing phase has begun from the start, but in weeks 2-6 it is vital to focus on correct form.  During phase 2, you will be weight bearing on BOTH legs, but your activity level will be limited.  Here your main focus is to regain FULL range of motion in the knee joint.  You might be able to drive your vehicle during this phase, but that depends on what type of vehicle and which knee was operated on.

Phase 3: 6 weeks to 3 months

Phase 3 is typically considered your strength phase.  Here, your therapist will increase your resistance to regain strength in the surrounding muscles of the knee joint.  You might be able to perform low-impact activities such as biking, swimming, or rowing.  And depending on how your body responds to resistance exercises, you might have the chance of light jogging by the end of this phase.  However, that strictly depends on how you are progressing with rehabilitation, the doctor’s protocols, and the therapist’s overall evaluation on how you are recovering from ACL surgery and your rehabilitation.

Phase 4: 3 to 6 months

As you are recovering from ACL surgery, in phase 4, your body is almost ready to return to full activity.  Typically, the doctor and therapist recommend the use of a stabilizing brace during this time to help protect and prevent stress on the ACL ligament while you continue with rehabilitation.  In phase 4, your strength gains might be beyond what a therapist has in their facility and exercises might be recommended for you to perform at home or at a fitness center (gym). 

Phase 5: 6 months +

Phase 5, you might be able to return to full activity or athletic events.  However, this does depend on your activity level.  Those levels need to be discussed between you, the doctor, and the therapist.  Many doctors recommend the use of a supportive brace for up to 2 years after ACL surgery. 

ACL Anatomy and TearsACL Ligament Injury

What is the Fastest Way to Recover From ACL Surgery?

There is no true fast way to recover from ACL surgery.  Once again each individual is different and each person heals differently.  Biggest advice will be to follow all instructions that were given to you after surgery.  If your MD prescribes physical therapy right after surgery, your physical therapist will give you further instructions regarding exercises that you can do for the particular time frame of healing. To find the closest JOI Rehab near you click HERE.

Knee Reconstructive Recovery

Knee reconstructive surgery usually requires injuries to ligaments mentioned below or injury to cartilage.  In other situations a total knee replacement might happen but this is usually due to a chronic/long term injury.  

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and medial collateral ligament (MCL).  
  • Arthritis, including rheumatoid, post-traumatic, psoriatic, and osteoarthritis
  • Avascular bone necrosis (damages blood supply to joint)
  • Torn cartilage

ACL Reconstructive Surgery Recovery

Typically ACL reconstructive surgery can take 6 months to a year to complete.  With full return to activity or sport.

Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute is Here for YOU

You can also complete all of your new patient paperwork from home. To request registration paper work electronically click HERE

  Related Articles: ACL Tear,  How Long Does ACL Rehab Take? and Torn ACL Symptoms.

To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.

To see a JOI Doctor, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online or click below

By: Robert Lim, PTA

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