ACL Surgery is more than just a visit to the operating room. It includes months of rehabilitation that are crucial to your recovery.
Although surgery isn’t always necessary for ACL injuries, the long-term prognosis is greatly improved by surgical intervention in most cases. For the greatest benefit from surgery, do your part by following the post-surgical rehab guidelines established by your treatment team.
Why Physical Rehabilitation Is Recommended after ACL Surgery
Rehab programs typically include exercises to increase strength, flexibility and endurance as well as coordination and agility. A dedicated physical therapist can guide your recovery and track your progress, and will help you progress at an appropriate rate.
Physical therapy or rehabilitation is needed for most ACL injuries, regardless of whether you require surgery. Post-surgical rehab is especially critical, however, to help restore both stability and range of motion in your knee.
If you hope to return to sports participation, an effective physical rehab regimen will help prevent future injuries. In many cases, athletes report that their knee is stronger after surgery and rehab than ever before.
What to Expect from Physical Rehabilitation after ACL Surgery
In most cases, ACL surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you will be permitted to go home the day of surgery. For the first two weeks, expect to take it easy. In most cases, you will be allowed to bear weight as tolerated, and to start physical therapy immediately. This will consist of light exercises designed to prevent blood clots and ensure that you can achieve full extension of the knee.
At the two-week post-surgical mark, you will begin exercises designed to restore stability and strength to the knee. Depending on the type and extent of your surgical procedure — and your goals for the future — your rehab program may be customized accordingly.
Later phases of rehab will focus on improving your knee’s strength and power, as well as increasing the stress it can bear. By four to six months after ACL surgery, you should be free of pain and have full range of motion.
At the six-month mark, you should be cleared to return to sports participation.
Use a Wise Approach for Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
Physical rehabilitation after ACL surgery is quite extensive and requires many months to complete. You’ll need to commit to participating fully, and abiding by the restrictions established by your care team, or it will not be successful.
Your orthopedic surgeon will work with your physical therapist to design an appropriate rehab program. Faithfully completing the recommended exercise regimen will put you on track for a full recovery in most cases. Don’t be tempted to push the process along, however, by exercising more than advised, as this is almost always counterproductive.
Progressing too quickly or pushing too hard often results in further injury and damage to other knee components.
At Steward Health Care: Centers of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in West Jordan, Utah, our experienced orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine physicians are committed to providing the finest treatment available. Contact us today to learn more about what ACL surgery can do for you.