ACL injuries are unfortunately quite common in sports and often referred to as the ‘nastiest’ injury. Fortunately, recovery from ACL surgery is relatively straightforward, and most patients can return to sports in 6 to 8 months.
1. You will go home the same day
ACL reconstruction surgery is almost always an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day.
During this time, it is essential to that you use a brace and crutches to support the leg. Additionally, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding how to take care of your knee.
It is normal to experience some discomfort after surgery, but this should subside within a few days. However, if the discomfort persists, inform your doctor right away so they can provide another form of analgesia.
2. You’ll need to wear a knee brace
A knee brace provides support and reduces pain and swelling in the knee joint. It is wise to wear one after surgery as well.
Finding the ideal brace for you depends on your injury and activity level. That is why consulting an experienced healthcare professional before purchasing a knee brace is so important.
Braces can reduce painful movements and improve proprioception or movement awareness. Furthermore, they limit hyperextension, which decreases the risk of re-injury and allows you to return to sports sooner.
3. You’ll be prescribed pain medication
Your doctor can prescribe pain medication to help ease the discomfort during your ACL surgery recovery. You may take over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as well as stronger drugs like meloxicam or tramadol.
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, are among the most powerful pain relievers available. However, be aware that taking these medicines may cause stomach upset and constipation.
If you require stronger pain medication, be sure to take the lowest dose prescribed and reassess in 30-60 minutes to see if you can reduce or discontinue use. Doing this will help control your discomfort and maximize recovery from ACL surgery.
4. You’ll start physical therapy
Your physical therapist will begin your recovery with sessions seven to 14 days after surgery, helping you regain your range of motion and strengthen your knee joint.
Your therapist will utilize stretches, strengthening exercises, and electrical stimulation to reduce pain, swelling, and weakness in the knee. They may also instruct you on how to walk and ascend stairs without using crutches.
Your rehabilitation program may last anywhere from two months to six months or longer. Your doctor will create a tailored plan for you based on your age, previous activity level, and motivation to return to sports.
5. You’ll be able to return to sports in a few months
Following ACL surgery, you’ll begin a physical therapy program to help restore movement and strength in your knee. With time, light activity should be possible within several months.
Your therapist will work with you to craft a treatment plan tailored specifically to your ACL injury and recovery requirements. This may include strengthening exercises and range-of-motion exercises.
The strengthening phase of your ACL recovery timeline is known as “the Build Stage.” Here, you build upon the progress made during phase 1 and prioritize quadriceps strengthening exercises. Additionally, hamstring curls may be added to your exercise regimen for added benefit.