The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) stabilizes your knee joint during twisting movements. The fibrous ACL band connects your thigh bone to your shin bone and controls your knee’s rotation during sidestepping motions, pivoting movements, and jump landings.
While common in sports, an ACL injury can also occur unexpectedly, such as when your knee suddenly twists or experiences direct impact. An ACL injury often happens with a distinctive "popping" sound and a sudden feeling that your knee might buckle and give way at any moment.
In addition to being extremely painful, ACL injuries limit your mobility and range of motion, and remain unstable until you undergo reconstructive surgery.
Fortunately, Dr. Neil Ghodadra, one of the nation’s leading orthopedic surgeons, specializes in minimally invasive ACL reconstruction. He possesses exceptional skills and experience repairing ACL injuries and also ensures effective rehabilitation techniques so you can recover fully and resume your active lifestyle. Here’s what to expect from your ACL reconstruction rehab with our professionals and your at-home support team.
How we help you recover from ACL reconstruction surgery
Immediately after your ACL reconstruction surgery, we discuss what to expect in the coming days, weeks, and months. We also give you detailed post-op instructions, outlining how to care for your incision, spot signs of infection, when and how to change your dressing, and everything you need to know about your prescribed medications.
We also go over your ACL reconstruction rehab protocol for the next six months. We break it down into five phases that include various levels of assistive bracing and progressive stages of exercises to increase your range of motion.
Participating in your scheduled sessions with our skilled physical therapists is integral to your recovery, but that’s not all you need to do. You must do your part at home to ensure proper and full healing.
How to help yourself recover from ACL reconstruction surgery
It can take up to six months to recover from ACL reconstruction surgery, and your home life will be a bit tricky until you can move around freely again. Expect to lean on the support of your family and friends — literally and figuratively — for the first few weeks. Here are some tips to make the process go smoothly.
Get your house in order
Well before your surgery date, prepare your home for easier post-surgery maneuvering. Here are a few examples of helpful modifications:
- A raised toilet seat and grab bars for your bathroom provide stability and support
- A shower chair adds comfort and security to your bathing routine
- Non-slip rugs (or throw rug removal) to prevent any accidents in the bathroom
- If possible, try to recover on the ground floor of your home to avoid navigating stairs
And when it comes to mealtime, a bed tray table can be a game changer, allowing you to enjoy your meals comfortably while reducing the need to bend your knees.
Elevate your leg
To avoid swelling and discomfort, keep your leg elevated at a minimum of a 45-degree angle by propping it on cushions or pillows — just make sure that your knee is at least 12 inches above your heart for the first three to five days. If you feel discomfort when you're up and about on crutches, lie down and elevate your leg for quick relief.
Take medication as instructed
In many cases, OTC medications are sufficient to quell the pain after an ACL reconstruction, but if you need something stronger, Dr. Ghodadra can prescribe it. The key is to control your pain and never let it spike, which may lead to medication overuse. Pain control also enables you to participate fully in your physical therapy exercises.
Use ice therapy
Starting with your initial injury and continuing through surgery, your knee has been under constant trauma, and your body responds to trauma by sending fluid to the injured site — that means inflammation.
At first, inflammation serves an important purpose, delivering healing factors and nutrients to the scene. But prolonged inflammation causes pain and hinders healing.
Elevating your leg can keep inflammation down, but you can take it a step further with ice therapy. Place a cold pack on your knee for about 10-20 minutes every few hours. Caution: Don’t let the ice come in direct contact with your skin; always protect your skin and incision by wrapping the ice in cloth.
Move around, but only as instructed
Movement helps heal your ACL, but the type and frequency of exercise matter. Dr. Ghodadra and our team monitor your progress and let you know when to increase your activity and try to bear weight.
Use crutches until Dr. Ghodadra gives you the green light to walk without them, and wear your brace for the first weeks unless otherwise instructed.
Despite the tips we’ve highlighted, you may still have questions regarding your post-ACL reconstruction surgery, and we’re here to help. Never hesitate to call or schedule a visit at NEIL GHODADRA, M.D., in West Los Angeles or Thousand Oaks, California.