ACL surgery is conducted to reconstruct a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to restore proper functioning of the knee joint. ACL surgery recovery times vary by patient.
However, recovery periods can be shortened with a few simple lifestyle modifications and special leg-strengthening exercises. Here are some important ACL reconstruction surgery recovery tips to keep in mind:
Be realistic about the recovery process. The complete ACL surgery recovery process can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months, depending on your overall health and level of activity. You may need to make some significant lifestyle changes to avoid interfering with your body’s natural healing process. Take frequent breaks when standing for long periods of time, stick with your schedule of approved physical exercises to strengthen the legs and take good care of your overall health so that the tissues can heal in optimal time.
Use ice packs.Ice packs can be very helpful for reducing swelling and discomfort after surgery. Prepare ice packs for the day you return from the procedure and have them readily available to manage the swelling for the first few weeks after surgery.
Refrain from too much activity. Most patients experience swelling and discomfort around the knee for up to two weeks after surgery. You may find it difficult to bend and straighten the knee during this time and walking can be uncomfortable. Refrain from engaging in physical activities that are prohibited during this time so that the knee can heal. Elevating the treated leg and using ice packs regularly can help with the recovery process.
Get comfortable with crutches. Most patients undergoing ACL surgery should use crutches for a week to 10 days after their procedure. This is an important part of the recovery process because crutches allow you to distribute your weight evenly while taking the pressure off of your knees when performing basic tasks. You may need to limit your tasks that require bending the knees, like the use of stairwells when you are using crutches.
Prepare for physical therapy. All ACL reconstruction surgery patients should undergo physical therapy to strengthen the knees and legs while limiting movement of the joint as it heals. Remember to schedule frequent visits with a physical therapist and commit to the recommended exercises in order to fully recover from surgery.
Refrain from driving for at least two weeks. Most patients are off crutches about two weeks after surgery and muscle function is restored at this time. You may need to refrain from driving for at least two weeks so make arrangements to have someone drive you around or find alternative forms of transportation.
Avoid physical activities for at least six weeks. Patients should wait at least six weeks to resume exercises on a treadmill or elliptical trainer and at least three months to resume jogging or running activities. Avoiding strenuous physical activities are critical for a complete ACL surgery recovery.