Sports Medicine

December 10, 2015

Getting Back in the Game: Recovering from ACL Surgery


ACL injuries are common in people who play high-impact contact sports such as basketball and soccer. Torn anterior cruciate ligaments rarelyheal correctly on their own, which is why most orthopedic surgeons will suggest reconstructive ACL surgery.

During anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructive surgery, your torn ligament is repaired using a tissue graft. Even though the surgery itself can be performed in an outpatient procedure that may take as little as two hours, the ACL surgery recovery process can take several months. Knowing what to expect during recovery from ACL surgery will help you prepare for and understand what makes the process a success.

Preparing Your Home for ACL Surgery Recovery
During ACL surgery recovery, getting around can be difficult. For the first few days at home, you should not put pressure on your repaired ligament by walking on it. Stairs will be especially difficult to manage, so if you have a bedroom on the second floor, arrange to camp out downstairs for a few days.

You can also make life easier by arranging your furniture to create a wide path to essential areas of your home like the bathroom and kitchen. This will help ensure that your crutches do not catch or slip on furniture. Be sure to remove any loose rugs so you will not trip and re-damage your knee.

It is a good idea to either prepare your meals in advance or have someone stay with you to help prepare your meals. Standing for long periods will increase inflammation, and walking aids will make carrying plates difficult.

You are also going to need a place to rest where you can keep your leg elevated, such as a recliner, or a long couch with a stack of pillows. Follow any additional instructions your orthopedic surgeon gives you as closely as possible.
Pain Management Techniques After ACL Surgery

Before you leave the hospital, your orthopedic surgeon will likely share techniques to help alleviate your knee pain. You may be given prescription pain medications or instructed to take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, but there are a few other things that can bring you some relief as well:

  • Keep your leg elevated about 12 inches above your heart to minimize swelling and inflammation
  • Use ice packs or a cold therapy unit to alleviate the pressure in your knee
  • Move and bend your knee often by doing the recommended motion exercises provided by your orthopedic surgeon

Activities to Avoid After ACL Surgery
The type of activities that you will be instructed to avoid during ACL surgery recovery will depend on the type of ACL reconstruction procedure that you have. However, in most cases, your orthopedic surgeon will recommend that you avoid all activity that could put too much stress on the new tissue.

You should avoid running for several months. Ask your surgeon for specific instructions if you want to resume running or if you intend to start a new running program. If you go swimming, try to use only your arms to move through the water. Low-pressure activity, such as riding a stationary bike, can help your knee recover when used in conjunction with your physical therapist’s instructions. Always discuss any new exercises you would like to add to your regimen with your orthopedic surgeon.

If you have questions about ACL surgery recovery in Arkansas, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 to schedule an appointment with one of our renowned orthopedic surgeons.

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