24th May 2021
Whether you’re an athlete who’s actively playing sports or a regular person familiar with certain sports, ACL injuries are no stranger to you. Because when you tear the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in your knee, you may need an ACL reconstructive surgery.
As one of the major ligaments in your knee, the ACL is a band of tissue joining the thighbone to the shinbone, running diagonally through the inside of your knee to provide joint stability. It also helps to control the range of motion for your lower leg.
However, when you sustain an ACL injury by landing incorrectly from a jump, stopping suddenly, changing direction suddenly, or having a collision during a sporting event, your knee may become very unstable and lose its full range of movement.
Luckily, you can reconstruct your ACL by replacing the torn ligament with a tendon. The surgery is generally performed as an outpatient procedure and can be done within several hours. But, recovery from ACL surgery can take up to a year or even longer.
Generally, you can return home after the surgery. Before that, your knee will likely be fitted with a knee brace and you’ll be asked to practice walking on crutches. You’ll also be given some medication and instructions on showering and caring for your knee post-surgery.
Throughout your ACL reconstruction recovery time, your surgeon or physiotherapist will recommend a structured rehabilitation programme to improve muscle and joint strength. It’s crucial that you follow the programme so that your recovery is as successful as possible.
That said, you can regard ACL surgery recovery time off work as an opportunity for you to get sufficient rest for your knee. Here’s a timeline of your ACL recovery:
The first few weeks after your ACL surgery are the most important to ensure that the graft heals properly. Your knee is likely to be swollen and stiff, and you may need to take painkillers.
Aside from caring for your knee and wound, you’ll need to commit to your rehabilitation plan to promote an ideal healing environment. This includes eating a balanced diet and performing exercises taught by your physiotherapist. Improving knee mobility is also necessary to improve function and serves a secondary purpose for healing.
During these few weeks, you may be able to walk without crutches as your knee regains the strength to balance yourself. Additionally, you may be advised to increase or change your exercises.
The exercises will help you to extend fully and bend your knee, strengthen your leg muscles, improve your balance, and allow you to walk properly. Activities that don’t put much weight on your knee may also be recommended such as swimming and cycling.
During this phase, you’ll be encouraged to continue with low-impact activities like swimming and cycling but make sure to avoid sports that involve twisting, jumping, or turning your knee.
You may also be advised to work on activity-specific strengthening and weight-bearing exercises such as squats, climbing the stairs, and balance. That way, you can experience a significant gain in functional strength.
By this time, your graft has started healing and the ACL has gained sufficient strength, allowing you to return to playing sport. Recovery in muscle control and stability is also typically achieved.
However, continuous rehabilitative exercise is necessary to improve muscle strength and restore the knee’s range of motion. Training the leg to control excessive motion is also necessary to minimise the risk of further damaging the ACL.
Once you demonstrate good functional strength and stability, your doctor may give you the clearance to return to activities such as work and sports. This will depend on your recovery objective and long-term goals.
The 6 months’ time frame is typically the earliest you can return to sports, but graft healing and recovery can take up to 12 months or longer for a full recovery. Therefore, be mindful of your body’s limit during the recovery phase.
Your recovery process may be a lengthy one, but it’s one way to fully regain your knee’s range of motion and improve muscle strength.
Like any other surgery that involves long recovery periods, there are some things you can and cannot do during recovery. In the case of ACL reconstruction, the following are some of the dos and don’ts after the surgery.
Keep your knee straight as it helps your knee joint to heal properly without putting pressure on your new
Wear your knee brace as it helps to protect and stabilise your knee while speeding up your recovery.
Follow your rehabilitation plan closely so that you can recover as soon as possible.
Attend your scheduled follow-ups to understand your recovery progress. The sooner you’re in the clear, the sooner you can get back to doing the things you love.
Put weight on your new knee. The crutches or wheelchair is your walking assistant until your surgeon says it’s
okay to put weight on your knee.
Push your body limits. This is a definite no-no during your rehabilitation as your new ligament is still healing.
There’s a reason why doctors often emphasise getting enough rest after every surgery. Because like ACL reconstruction surgery, it takes time for the graft to heal properly. Hence, listen to your doctor and physiotherapist if you want to recover faster.
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.