How to Heal After ACL Reconstructive Surgery

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructive surgery stabilizes the tibia bone (shinbone), prevents the tibia bone from sliding forward on the femur (thighbone) and stops the femur from sliding backward. It is a complex procedure, and as such, often requires a lengthy recovery process to ensure proper healing.

At La Peer Health Systems, our orthopedic surgeons help patients streamline the ACL reconstructive surgery recovery process. As part of our commitment to providing exceptional care and support, we are offering the following tips to help patients heal properly following ACL reconstructive surgery:

Participate in Physical Therapy

ACL reconstructive surgery actually begins prior to treatment. At this point, patients may perform physical therapy exercises to strengthen the leg and ACL muscles.

Physical therapy may be required for several weeks prior to ACL reconstructive surgery. A physical therapist usually works with an ACL reconstructive surgery patient and teaches him or her assorted leg and ACL exercises. Then, the patient performs these exercises with a physical therapist or at home.

ACL reconstructive surgery pre-rehabilitation exercises simultaneously reduce knee pain and swelling and increase range of motion in the knee. Failure to perform these exercises may slow down the healing process following ACL reconstructive surgery. Perhaps worst of all, ACL reconstructive surgery patients who ignore these exercises may struggle to regain full range of motion in the knee after treatment.

Follow the RICE Model

ACL reconstructive surgery patients may experience pain and swelling in the days following treatment. Patients who follow the “RICE model,” however, can alleviate these issues.

The RICE model offers a simple process to help ACL reconstructive surgery patients manage knee pain and swelling. It involves four steps:

  • Rest: Get plenty of rest. Also, use crutches as needed and avoid placing too much weight on the knee.
  • Ice: Ice the knee frequently; it generally helps to ice the knee at least every 2 hours for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression: Place a compression wrap or elastic bandage around the knee.
  • Elevation: Lie down and use pillows to elevate the knee.

In addition to the RICE model, physical therapy sessions following ACL reconstructive surgery may be beneficial. These treatment sessions help ACL reconstructive surgery patients strengthen the muscles around the knee, as well as improve knee flexibility.

Practice Proper Wound Care

An ACL reconstructive surgery patient will leave a treatment center with dressing and a bandage around his or her knee. The dressing and bandage should not be removed until an orthopedic surgeon indicates it is safe to do so; otherwise, a patient risks infection.

Furthermore, an ACL reconstructive surgery patient will need to wrap his or her leg in plastic when showering or bathing. This may be required until an orthopedic surgeon removes stitches around the treatment area.

Manage Post-Surgery Pain

Pain is normal following ACL reconstructive surgery. And in some instances, an orthopedic surgeon will prescribe medication to help an ACL reconstructive surgery patient minimize post-treatment pain.

To manage post-treatment pain with a prescription medication, an ACL reconstructive surgery patient should follow an orthopedic surgeon’s instructions. A patient should fill the prescription after treatment, along with notify the surgeon if he or she experiences nausea, drowsiness or any other side effects.

Avoid Work and Other Strenuous Activities

The first few weeks after ACL reconstructive surgery are crucial to ensure a successful recovery. For those who work a physically demanding job, it is important to take time off from work. This allows an ACL reconstructive surgery patient to focus on treatment recovery and limit the risk of further injury.

Most ACL reconstructive surgery patients should expect to be out of work for a few days or weeks after treatment. Patients will need to elevate the knee and keep their knee bandage clean and dry during this period.

An orthopedic surgeon may provide a patient with simple exercises to perform in the initial days after an ACL reconstructive procedure, too. These exercises are designed to help keep blood flowing to the leg and reduce the risk of clotting.

Begin to Put Weight on the Knee

An ACL reconstructive surgery patient may be required to use crutches for seven to 10 days following treatment. Next, when the patient is comfortable, he or she can start to put weight on the knee.

Typically, an ACL reconstructive surgery patient can begin to put weight on his or her knee approximately two weeks after treatment. In some instances, a patient may require up to eight weeks before he or she regains full use of the knee.

An orthopedic surgeon may fit an ACL reconstructive surgery patient for a special knee brace as well. The brace is set to enable a patient to move only a certain amount in all directions. Meanwhile, an orthopedic surgeon will respond to a patient’s concerns or questions about the brace and explain how it works and how to remove it.

Follow a Rehabilitation Plan

An orthopedic surgeon crafts a custom rehabilitation plan for each ACL reconstructive surgery patient. By following this plan, a patient can ensure his or her recovery stays on track.

ACL reconstructive surgery recovery varies based on a patient’s age, health and other factors. On average, an ACL reconstructive surgery rehabilitation program may range from two to six months. In some instances, the program may extend beyond six months.

Regardless of how long an ACL reconstructive surgery rehabilitation program requires to complete, it is paramount to maintain constant communication with an orthopedic surgeon. If a patient experiences any signs of infection or has ACL reconstructive surgery recovery concerns, this surgeon can provide immediate assistance.

Return to Physical Activities

An orthopedic surgeon sets ACL reconstructive surgery recovery milestones that a patient needs to reach before he or she can resume certain physical activities. Although it may be tempting to rush back to playing football, jogging and performing other physical activities, an ACL reconstructive surgery patient must meet an orthopedic surgeon’s recovery milestones before resuming these activities. That way, a patient can minimize the risk of future knee injuries.

Remember, the goal of ACL reconstructive surgery is to help an individual repair his or her knee and regain full range of motion in the knee. If a patient collaborates with an orthopedic surgeon throughout the recovery process, this individual can get the help that he or she needs to safely resume various physical activities as quickly as possible.

Schedule an ACL Reconstructive Surgery Consultation with a La Peer Orthopedic Surgeon

La Peer’s orthopedic surgeons teach patients about all aspects of ACL reconstructive surgery. By doing so, they help patients prepare for ACL reconstructive surgeries and achieve the best-possible recovery results. To find out more about ACL reconstructive surgery, please contact us today at 855.360.9119 to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic surgeons