If you have just had ACL surgery, you could be looking at several months of rehab. In many cases, the rehabilitation process begins as soon as your leave the hospital. While you won’t be playing basketball or running a marathon the day that you leave the hospital, there are things that you can do to increase your odds of a full recovery.
Start By Regaining Your Range of Motion
About a week after your ACL reconstruction surgery, you should be healthy enough to do light calf and thigh stretches while sitting on the floor. It is critical that you use proper form and do the exercises exactly as your doctor has suggested to ensure best results. The goal is to start regaining some movement and range of motion in the knee that was operated on. This will make it easier for your knee to respond well when you move on to walking, running and cutting on the knee later in your rehab.
Work on Strengthening the Muscles Around the Knee
In addition to making your knee stronger, you are going to want to focus on making the muscles around your knee stronger. This is important because you won’t be able to walk for several weeks after your surgery, which could result in the loss of muscle as well as loss of muscle tone. Over time, strengthening your thighs and calf muscles may make your knee more stable, which could reduce the odds of another ACL tear.
Go Slow Even If You Feel Good
A month or two after your ACL reconstruction surgery, you may notice that the pain and swelling in your knee has started to subside. While this is a good thing, you shouldn’t take it as a sign that your knee is back to normal. Instead, you should stick to the rehab schedule provided by your doctor. Although you may be anxious to get back on the field or back in the gym, a setback could mean several more months of rehab.
You Should Keep Impact to a Minimum
It may take three months after reconstruction of the ACL before your knee is strong enough to take the impact from jogging. Ideally, you won’t even run on a treadmill as that can be even worse for your legs. For the first several months, your goal should be to lift weights, stretch and keep swelling to a minimum. You should also keep an eye on any pain or soreness that you experience after exercising as this could be a sign that your knee isn’t getting better.
Work With a Physical Therapist
It may be easier and safer to do your rehab exercises under the guidance and supervision of a physical therapist. While you may be able to do simple exercises on your own, it won’t take much to extend your body past what it can reasonably handle. Even a small mistake could lead to straining or tearing the ligament that was just operated on. This could lead to another reconstruction of the ACL or push your rehab timetable back several weeks or months.
If you have just undergone ACL surgery, it is critical that you don’t try to be a hero during rehab. Instead, you should listen to your doctors and make sure that you manage your pain. The use of ice and heat can help to relieve pain and decrease swelling, and their use may be part of your overall recovery program.