One of the most common knee injuries, both sports-related and not, is an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear. When this soft tissue is torn, it can discourage a lot of knee functionality and movement. An ACL repair may be needed, especially if an individual is looking to get back into athletics or physical activities. If you’re preparing for an ACL repair surgery, or have recently had one, you may be wondering just how long you’ll have to wait until you can get back to the activities you love. Here is what you can expect after an ACL repair.
An average ACL surgery can take up to a few hours, and patients usually are sent home the same day. The surgeon will likely have some specific rules to follow to allow your knee to heal. They may mention the R.I.C.E Method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to help reduce some of the swelling and pain you’ll experience following surgery.
This is a crucial part of every recovery process. Keep your weight off your operated leg, use crutches for the allotted time, and get plenty of rest. Your doctor will discuss when you can begin moving and putting weight on your leg.
Applying ice to the repaired knee for 20 minutes every couple of hours can reduce your swelling. Remember, never apply ice directly to the skin; use an ice bag or wrap the ice in a towel before applying to the area.
Wrap your knee with an elastic gauze bandage or compression wrap to keep the tissue from pushing or pulling while you move or stretch. Be cautious to allow for circulation and gentle movement.
When sitting or laying down, make sure to elevate the knee with pillows or folded blankets.
You may also be given some instructions for taking care of your injury such as how to bathe and other post-surgery care.
These days, doctors are wary to prescribe pain medications; if they do it usually will be enough to last a few days with no refills. Believe it or not, much of your pain will come from inflammation, so your doctor may recommend higher-than-usual doses of Motrin or Aleve to help reduce inflammation.
Beginning stages of healing
You will feel exhausted for the first few days, that’s why rest – the “R” in RICE – is so important. You may experience swelling and numbness around the incision. Remember to ice it, as well as any other areas on your leg that may swell and bruise. After a few days, you’ll begin to feel an improvement in your knee.
Oftentimes, especially with outpatient surgery, doctors will want you to move as soon as possible following the procedure. This helps gets the joints moving and blood flowing to the site.
The physical therapy process helps you to recover strength and movement in your knee. After a few weeks, you may be able to return to a light version of your regular routine. Complete use of your knee may take 4-6 months, especially if you’re practicing sports. Even then, your knee may not be as strong as it was before the injury.
Every patient heals at their own pace. Following your doctors instructions, adhering to the RICE method, and progressing with your physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises can help strength, power and functionality to your knee faster.
Dr. Bill Hefley and his caring staff are devoted to treating a broad range of conditions affecting the shoulder, hip, and knee, both operatively and non-operatively. If you have any questions about knee replacement or any other orthopedic concerns, please contact us to schedule an appointment. You can call (800) 336-2412 or simply use our online request form.