Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery is typically done to repair damage to the ligament that connects your femur (thighbone) to your tibia (shinbone) and help to keep your knee joint in working order.
Recovery includes rest, physical therapy, and progressive return to activities. Sticking to your rehabilitation plan is crucial to facilitate your speedy recovery.
Typically after ACL surgery is complete you’ll be sent home the same day. Once you wake up from anesthesia, you’ll likely practice walking on crutches and get fitted with a knee brace or splint.
You’ll be given written instructions on showering and immediate post-operative care.
Orthopedic surgeons commonly suggest following the RICE first aid model (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to help alleviate swelling after your surgery. Do not use a heating pad during the first week after surgery.
Depending on your specific situation, you might begin putting weight on your leg two to three weeks after surgery. You could regain full use of your knee within four to eight weeks.
Your doctor will most likely recommend physical therapy to help you build leg and knee strength. Physical therapy may last two to six months.
To help your wound heal, make sure to change the dressing on your wound according to your doctor’s instructions. That might include keeping the wound clean and free of debris and using an elastic bandage.
Recovering from an ACL surgery can be long and difficult, but there are ways to make your recovery as quick as possible while achieving the best outcome.
Listen to and read your post-operative instructions
After surgery, you should be given verbal instructions for recovery as well as written instructions. Make sure to read and understand those instructions and what to look for as far as infection or adverse reactions to the surgery.
Attend all of your appointments
Although it may be tempting to skip a few of your rehabilitation appointments or your check-up appointments, don’t. Attend all of your appointments or reschedule ones that you may have to miss.
Go to physical therapy
Physical therapy is needed to help you regain strength in your leg. If you do not have a regular physical therapist, ask your doctor for suggestions in your area.
Be sure to perform and participate in all rehab exercises to the best of your ability. Check with your insurance company to see how many sessions your plan covers.
Take your medicine
If you are prescribed pain medications, take them as prescribed. They can help you recover faster by dulling pain while working on strength and range-of-motion exercises in physical therapy.
Do not overuse your pain medication or it may be harder to function without them once the prescription has run out.
Get proper sleep and nutrition
Getting the right amount of rest helps your body heal. Try to incorporate lean protein, dairy, and plenty of vegetables into your diet.
Tell your doctor about any issues
If you develop a fever or have abnormal pain or other adverse symptoms, you need to let your doctor know. By addressing issues early, your doctor can keep you on track to recovery.
Don’t overdo it
Once you are feeling a little bit better, it may be tempting to immediately return to your old routine. Take it slow, ask for help if you need it, and clear any physical activity with your doctor before participating.
An ACL injury can be hard to deal with, especially if you’re an athlete. However, if you follow proper recovery advice, you should be resuming your regular activities within a year.
Be sure to monitor your recovery and notify your doctor if you have any adverse reactions to the surgery.
Call your doctor if you are experiencing swelling in your calf, yellow discharge from incisions, a high temperature, or continued bleeding of the incision area.
Make a commitment to follow your doctor’s directions and to attend all of your physical therapy sessions. Your knee will continue to grow stronger, and you’ll be able to put the injury in your past and keep it there.