If you play sports or work in a way that requires pivoting, sidestepping, or jumping, you are in the category of patients who are among the most likely to suffer an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.
ACL surgery is likely necessary if you want to regain full strength in your ACL. In addition to our expert team at the Orthopaedic Institute of Henderson, we have highly experienced ACL surgeons on staff. Combining their exceptional surgical skills with their customized rehabilitation program, they’ll get you back in the game as quickly as possible.
We know how important your mobility is to you and how much you want to get back into the game. However, if you don't give your body the time and strength it needs to heal, you'll struggle for a lot longer and might even end up with more severe problems in the long run.
Recovery timeline for an ACL injury
Not everyone follows the same timeline of recovery, which is why the numbers include ranges. Always keep in mind that you're laying the foundation for long-term functionality and that your body's health always comes before scoring points or outdoor activity.
The first phase of your rehabilitation begins right after the ACL injury or surgery. In the first two weeks, our doctors focus on helping you regain a full range of motion. This is also the phase in which you’ll gradually stop relying on crutches and learn to bear weight on the recovering knee.
Sometimes a knee brace is recommended that allows you to straighten the leg but not bend it completely. However, studies show no differences in treatment outcomes between people with or without a knee brace. You may feel safer with a splint, or you may find it more of an annoyance.
The primary focus during the first phase of rehabilitation is:
- Reducing swelling and inflammation in the joint
- Fully straightening and bending the leg again
- Controlling the thigh muscles
- Walking normally
Your doctor may treat swelling with physical therapy and pain with anti-inflammatory drugs. You’ll then begin light exercises for stretching and bending the leg as early as the first week of recovery. When you’re no longer in pain, isometric exercises, prone knee flexion, and heel slides are the three safest exercises to begin.
You should begin seeing improvements during phase two, which is approximately the two to six weeks range. Before you begin more strenuous and challenging exercises, make sure your knee can support your body weight. Try swimming or riding a stationary bike, or focus on resistance and core strengthening exercises.
If your knee becomes warm, swollen, or painful after a workout, it’s a sign your exercises are too intense for this phase of ACL injury recovery.
Phase three takes place anywhere from three to six months following your ACL surgery or injury. Once all your goals meet the phase two standards, you’ll be able to perform many exercises correctly and painlessly. It’s at this point it becomes possible to start exercising and performing more physically demanding activities.
Phase three continues to strengthen the leg muscles, incorporating more challenging exercises, such as lunges or one-legged squats. These activities also increase your range of motion. To improve maximum strength, the resistance is increased in certain movements. In the last few weeks of this phase, sport-specific exercises can be incorporated, such as particular jumping or running drills.
In addition to physical therapy, the doctors at the Orthopaedic Institute of Henderson also offer a range of various treatment methods for knee pain, such as:
- Home remedies such as ice and rest
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Injections (steroid, hyaluronic acid)
- Regenerative medicine
You may require knee surgery to restore the function and structure of your knee if your orthopedist recommends it.
Long term success
Long-term knee health depends on adequate rehabilitation for an ACL injury or surgery, no matter which treatment method works best for you. Your doctor will work with you to stabilize the knee in the weeks and months after the ACL injury and build strong muscles.
If you’ve experienced an ACL injury or surgery, our highly experienced orthopedic surgeons offer holistic solutions to restore musculoskeletal function, reduce pain, and lower your risk of reinjury. Call the Orthopaedic Institute of Henderson today or request an appointment online for more information.