A medical professional massaging a patient's knee

What Is the Recovery Process for ACL Surgery?

As an outpatient procedure, reconstructive surgery is often the most straightforward part of recovering from an ACL tear. Patients go home that same day once the anesthesia wears off. The recovery period takes several months and often starts the same week as the surgery. Following the advice of your surgeon and physical therapist can help your recovery go as smoothly as possible.

Follow-up Appointments

A medical professional massaging a patient's knee

Your surgeon will schedule periodic follow-up sessions to examine your knee. These appointments will be set around certain milestones. For example, there is usually a follow-up two weeks after surgery to remove the dressings on your incision so that you can shower without bandages. Your follow-up appointments are a vital part of monitoring how well your knee is healing. They also give you a dedicated time to ask your surgeon any questions you may have.

Regaining Strength in Physical Therapy

Once the structural damage in your knee has been repaired by ACL surgery, you’ll need to attend physical therapy sessions to regain strength in your injured leg. Each patient has a different recovery timeline, but this process typically takes six to nine months. Many of the exercises will focus on building up the quadriceps, hips, calves, and hamstrings because these muscles help reduce the pressure that running, jumping, and changing directions place on your knee.

The first few weeks of therapy will focus on your range of motion, muscle activation, and managing swelling. If you also had surgery to repair your meniscus, you will begin to test your knee’s ability to bear weight after using crutches for several weeks. As you hit predetermined milestones, your exercises will target improving your balance and leg strength. After three to four months, you will progress to running and agility exercises. The final step is a return-to-sport test that will measure if your injured leg is as strong as your uninjured leg.

Each patient’s recovery from an ACL tear is different. Your surgeon and physical therapist will help guide you through rehabilitation. K. Mathew Warnock, MD is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who has helped many athletes with serious knee injuries get back to playing sports. If you’re considering surgery to repair an ACL tear, schedule a consultation with Dr. Warnock by calling 281-807-4380.

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