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ACL Rehabilitation & Recovery Programme

6th May 2021

One of the ways people hurt their knees is by injuring their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). As one of the four ligaments critical to stabilising the knee joint, the ACL is made of tough fibrous material that holds the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia) together within the knee.

The ACL also functions to control excessive motion by limiting joint mobility. Without it, the joint would be unstable and prone to giving way during pivoting motions. However, it’s also the most frequently injured ligament among athletes, giving them the feeling that their knees are “giving out”.

As athletes often make a sudden movement or quick, sharp turn when they’re running or jumping, the likelihood of them stretching or tearing their ACL is high. More so for those who play soccer, football, tennis, basketball, or volleyball. Gymnasts are no exception as they are more likely to twist their knees by mistake during a competition.

That said, treatment for an ACL injury varies from person to person, depending on how bad the injury is. Among the options that a doctor may provide are:


● First aid

If it’s a minor injury, you may be asked to put some ice on your knee, elevate your leg, and stay off your feet for a while. You can reduce the swelling by wrapping an ice bandage around your knee and use crutches to keep your weight off your knee.

● Knee brace

Some people with a damaged ACL can get by wearing a brace on their knee when they run or play sports. While it provides the extra support that they need, it’s more of a short-term solution compared to physiotherapy and surgery.

● Physiotherapy

If you’re looking to get your knee back in motion without the surgery, physioherapy may help to strengthen the muscles around your knee and help you regain a full range of motion. You’ll need to continue exercising your knee for a full recovery.

  • ● Surgery

  • Generally recommended if your ACL is badly torn, or your knee gives way. The damaged ACL will be replaced with ur own tissue in its place. With ACL surgery rehab, you can return to your active lifestyle within 12 months.

For many athletes, undergoing ACL surgery is the most common option despite having to undergo months of ACL rehabilitation. Their dedication to post-surgical rehabilitation also plays a role in ensuring a successful ACL recovery.

ACL Rehabilitation & Recovery Programme

7 Tips to Make Recovery from ACL Surgery Easier

ACL tears are commonly repaired with arthroscopic surgery whereby the surgeon replaces the torn ligament with a tendon graft to restore knee function. While the operation is generally done within a short time, the recovery and rehabilitation process are extensive and require close follow-up and dedication on the patient’s part. Here’s how you can make your recovery easier:

#1 Discuss with your doctor specific recovery goals

Your main goal after the surgery is to recover properly so that you don’t have to head back into the doctor’s office for another surgery. That aside, discuss with your doctor about managing the symptoms and regaining strength and function. Your recovery may be extensive so talk to your doctor about the best strategies to reach your goals.

#2 Take control of your pain levels

After every surgery, pain and swelling are unavoidable, especially around the surgical area. For this reason, you may be asked to ice your knee and elevate your leg to reduce swelling and your doctor will likely prescribe some medication to control the pain. Also, by taking control of your pain levels, you’ll be able to complete your rehabilitation and recover faster.

#3 Wear a knee brace or use crutches

As physical therapy is crucial to your post-surgical rehabilitation, you may be asked to wear a knee brace and rely on crutches for a few weeks after the surgery. Also, your recovery plan will generally focus on restoring your knee’s range of motion and strengthening your muscles and ligaments. The exercises can be painful at first so discuss with your doctor about managing the pain.

#4 Start gradually

For people who are eager to return to their active lifestyle, following the ACL rehabilitation plan can be challenging as it takes time for your new ligament to heal. If you want to recover faster, follow all instructions on managing your knee pain and start gradually on the exercises. Ask your doctor when it’s safe to return to your daily activities.

#5 Take care of your incision

Taking care of your wound is more tedious than a normal cut. Make sure to follow all instructions for covering and dressing the wound, keeping it dry, and during your shower. Avoid soaking the wound until your doctor clears it. During your follow-up visit, your doctor will remove the stitches. If your wound is swollen, red, draining excess fluid, bleeding, or starting to open, inform your doctor.

#6 Contact your doctor for unexpected symptoms

As with any surgical procedures, there are risks associated with ACL surgery. If you have a fever or your knee is swelling more than normal, contact your doctor immediately as these could be signs of a complication. You should also call your doctor if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or your leg feels cool to the touch. This may indicate a blood clot in your leg.

#7 Strengthen your knee to prevent future problems

Your physiotherapist will teach you ways to use your knees and show you strategies to prevent future ACL injuries. Depending on your lifestyle, the exercises may be adapted to strengthen and stabilise your knee. When you follow your therapist’s tips closely, you can reduce stress on your knee and avoid future problems.

ACL Rehabilitation Guideline

Aside from these tips to make your ACL recovery easier, here are some exercises that help with ACL rehabilitation. Note that these are aimed at strengthening the muscles surrounding your knee, especially the quadriceps and hamstrings, while gradually extending your knee’s range of motion. Do note that these exercises are best done under the supervision of the physiotherapist as the intensity of such exercises will vary depending on the post operative duration.

Passive knee extensions

This exercise will require you to place two chairs of equal height facing each other at a distance shorter than the length of your leg. You’ll sit in one chair and place your heel on the other chair. Relax your leg and allow your knee to straighten for a few minutes. Doing this several times a day will gradually stretch out your hamstrings.

Heel raises

You’ll perform this exercise while standing as you place one hand on the back of a chair for balance. Slowly lift the heel of your injured leg, standing on your tiptoes. Maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then slowly lower your heels. Repeat this exercise 10 times to strengthen your knee.

Half squats

Half squats are performed standing while you hold a sturdy table with both hands. You’ll be placing your feet at shoulder’s width apart and slowly bend your knees and lower your hips into a half squat. Hold in position for 10 seconds and slowly return to your standing position. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Standing on one leg

This exercise focuses mainly on building and evaluating your strength and balance. You’ll need to stand on both feet and then lift your uninjured leg. Try to stand unassisted on the injured leg for 10 seconds. This exercise may not be easy at first but you’ll be able to stand on one leg after some time.

With these tips and guidelines, you’ll have an easier time recovering during your ACL rehabilitation. That said, it’s important to maintain ligament health to avoid knee surgery as not every case of torn ligament requires surgery.

At Spire Orthopaedic Centre, everyone should be cared for and healed holistically in comfort without having to travel to different locations to seek medical and surgical help and rehabilitation support.

With a combined facility for collaboration between physicians, physiotherapists, and surgeons, you will experience a seamless service from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation, that’s tailored just for you at our clinic.