A torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a common knee injury, particularly among athletes and people who exercise or lead active lifestyles. This knee injury can cause pain, swelling, and loss of motion in the knee, making normal day-to-day activities difficult or impossible.
If the ligament was only partially torn, then the ACL tear should be able to heal on its own with rest; but in severe cases, or if the ligament was completely torn, surgery may be required to successfully repair the damage. Let’s talk about what you can expect during recovery after suffering a torn ACL.
Recovery Process from a Torn ACL
Recovery from an ACL tear will depend on the severity of your injury, the type of treatment you’ve received, and your health at the time of your injury. A partially torn ACL will likely only require the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the injured area.
If the injury is more severe and you have surgery, it will likely be an outpatient procedure so you will go home on the same day of your procedure. Pain medication will be given to make you feel as comfortable as possible during your recovery, and ice may be applied to the knee throughout the day to help to reduce pain and swelling.
Your doctor may also prescribe blood-thinning medication and special support stockings in order to prevent developing blood clots in your leg. The injured leg will need to be kept elevated in order to help reduce the swelling, and you will need to regularly move or pump your foot and ankle to facilitate proper circulation.
Compression boots and a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine may be prescribed to improve circulation, decrease swelling, and restore movement in your knee. Compression boots are inflatable leg coverings that are attached to a machine that gently squeezes your leg to aid in blood circulation. A CPM machine moves your leg in a cycling motion while you are in bed.
Maintaining movement in the knee during your recovery from a torn ACL is very important. If you have surgery, you will probably begin physical therapy very soon in order to help improve your leg’s functional ability, strength, and movement.
A walker or crutches will be required initially while standing and walking, and a knee brace may be prescribed for you to wear during activities. Your physical therapist (PT) will help you walk and show you how to go up and down stairs safely. You will also learn how to further strengthen your quadriceps and hamstring muscles and regain balance and coordination.
It is very important to follow your home care instructions and exercises in order to achieve a full recovery. The success of your recovery will largely depend on how well you follow your home care instructions and participate in appropriate levels of exercise as your knee continues to grow stronger.
Comprehensive Orthopedic Care in San Antonio, Texas
If you have knee pain and think you might have an injury such as an ACL tear, make an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists here at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. We offer comprehensive orthopedic care including minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery, physical therapy, and sports medicine.
If you would like to learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call us today at (210) 692-7400 or fill out our convenient online form to request an appointment. We look forward to being your doctors of choice for orthopedic care.