The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is what connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. Your ACL is what provides your leg with rotational stability as well as some side-to side-stability.
Before your surgery, your surgeon may advise that you engage in some pre-operative ‘prehab’ to ensure that you are physically as fit and strong as possible going into surgery, which will give you a better outcome and speedier recovery after the surgery.
Your physiotherapy and rehabilitation will start as soon as you have had the surgery. Once you are feeling more awake and able to eat and drink your physiotherapist in the hospital will encourage you to start exercising your leg gently. Exercises such as straight leg raises, knee bends and glute contractions will start the rehabilitation needed for your full recovery.
Your physiotherapy goals will be to eventually gain full range of movement. Some surgeons will insist that you wear a brace for the first few weeks to limit your degree of flexion for optimal healing. Some will also suggest that you aim for 90 degrees knee flexion and 0 degrees extension by 2 weeks after surgery, however this depends on your surgeon’s protocol.
The first two weeks after your surgery is very time critical, because this is when your body is at its most vulnerable. Any surgery is traumatic on your body, and you will experience some level of pain, discomfort and swelling around the knee joint.
During these two weeks, your physiotherapist will explain to you that your ability to bear weight on the affected leg will be limited, so the use of crutches will be required for around ten days to two weeks. The physio will teach you how to use crutches safely and how to manage the stairs, and get in and out of the car.
When can I bear weight on my leg again?
After two weeks of having your surgery, you will be able to bear some weight through the leg, but your activities will still be very limited while your tissues surrounding your knee repair themselves. During your physio sessions, your main focus at this stage is to help you regain full range of motion and strengthening of the surrounding muscles that support your knee. Your physio will also show you methods to reduce swelling with massage and will discuss how to use ice therapy.
At what stage can I exercise again?
At around six weeks after surgery, and as your knee becomes stronger, your physiotherapist will allow you to do some low impact activities, such as swimming and cycling. During this time, your leg will be getting stronger and after another six weeks (12 in total) you may be ready for some light jogging if your physiotherapist thinks you are ready for this, but there are some requirements in order for your physio to sign you off to do this:
- You must have no swelling left in your knee
- You must be able to walk without a limp
- You must have only minimal knee pain
- You must be able to bend your knee fully and straighten it after
- You must be able to walk for 20 minutes without swelling or pain
As you start to feel better in the coming weeks after your surgery you may be tempted to try to push your body to the limit when doing physiotherapy exercises. Your physiotherapist will tell you how important it is to strengthen your knee, but also by doing to much too quickly can also slow down your recovery time.
If you are planning an ACL surgery, please get in touch with Home Physio Group on 0330 335 1016 to find out how we can help you and your recovery.