Overcoming ACL Surgery

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is an injury to the knee  that commonly affecting athletes, such as soccer players, basketball players, skiers, and gymnasts.  Our office specializes in helping people in their 40’s-60’s who have undergone ACL surgery get back being active again.  We do this through a custom tailored program that includes treatement to reduce pain and swelling, exercises to regain strength and movement, and a plan to get back to activity.

The ACL is one of the major bands of tissue (ligaments) connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) at the knee joint. It can tear if you twist your knee while keeping your foot planted on the ground, stop suddenly while running, suddenly shift your weight from one leg to the other, jump and land on an extended (straightened) knee, stretch the knee farther than its usual range of movement, or experience a direct blow to the knee.

When an ACL is torn, you may feel a sharp, intense pain or hear a loud “pop” or snap. You might not be able to walk on the injured leg because you can’t support your weight through your knee joint. Usually, the knee will swell immediately (within minutes to a few hours), and you might feel that your knee “gives way” when you walk or put weight on it.

When someone comes to us with concerns of an ACL tear, we perform hands-on tests to determine the likelihood of an ACL tear. We may use additional tests to assess damage to other parts of your knee as well.  An orthopedic surgeon may order further tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible damage to the knee.

Most people who sustain an ACL tear in the United States will undergo surgery to repair the tear.  However, some people can avoid surgery by developing strength of surrounding muscles to stabilize the knee.  We’ve managed to help a few clients return to vigorous physical activity following rehabilitation without having surgery.

When surgery is performed, we obtain postsurgery instructions from the orthopedic surgeon.  We then design an individualized treatment program based on our clients’ specific needs and goals. The treatment program may include:

Bearing weight. Following surgery, crutches are used to walk. The amount of weight permitted and how crutches are used will depend on the type of reconstructive surgery.  We design a treatment program to work towards full weight-bearing.

Bracing. Some surgeons will prescribe a brace to limit knee movement (range of motion) following surgery. We make sure the brace fits and provide education on how to use it safely.  Some athletes will be fitted for braces as they recover and begin to return to their sports activities.

Movement exercises. During the first week following surgery, we work on regaining motion in the knee area and teach gentle exercises to be performed at home. The focus will be on regaining full movement of the knee. The early exercises help with increasing blood flow, which also helps reduce swelling.  It is important to note that depending on what other structures have been repaired (i.e. menisus), there may be limitations on how much the knee should move.

Strengthening exercises. We use a combination of weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing exercises. The exercises will focus on hip and thigh muscles.  The exercises might be limited to a specific range of motion to protect the new ACL.  During later weeks, we increase the intensity of exercises and add balance exercises to the program.

Balance exercises. We guide our patients through exercises to help restore balance. Initially, the exercises will help you gently shift your weight on to the surgery leg. These activities will progress to standing on the surgically repaired knee, while performing dynamic activities.

Return to sport or activities. As patients regain strength and balance, they may begin running, jumping, hopping, and other exercises specific to their individual sport. This phase varies greatly from person-to-person. We design return-to-sport treatment programs to fit individual needs and goals.

When addressed with a well designed rehabilitation plan, a full recovery following ACL reconstruction is possible.  However, a poorly designed program may lead to suboptimal results.  If you have had or are planning to have an ACL reconstruction surgery, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to be a resource for you.

We have a free guide on knee pain health that can give you further insight into knee problems and help kickstart your recovery.  We are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation to talk about how your surgery and discuss your treatment options.

If you prefer an in-person consultation, we offer a limited number of free Discovery Visits at our office.  This type of appointment of for those who are interested in working with us.  It is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your surgery, and foster confidence in our ability to help you.

If you’re certain that we’re a good fit and ready to book an appointment, you can inquire about cost and availability and get the process started.

If you’re unsure about what your next steps should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.

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