Rehab Starts Right After Surgery
Following ACL repair surgery, most patients experience pain and inflammation around the knee. Successful rehabilitation begins right after surgery to allow patients to alleviate swelling and discomfort, prevent stiffness, and preserve range of motion.
To accomplish that, your physical therapist may recommend:
- Ice and compression wraps
- Leg elevation
- Ankle pumps
- Electrical stimulation
- Refraining from weight-bearing and overloading the knee
Once the pain and swelling have diminished (usually after the first week following surgery), patients can then focus on the next phase of the ACL rehab process: restoring full extension of the knee.
A physical therapist will provide patients with specific, gentle, early range of motion exercises to emphasize proper knee extension, and then gradually shift to exercises that focus on restoring full flexion and freeing up the muscles and tissues around the kneecap.
For Jason, his road to full recovery was far from a walk in the park. The exercises he needed to do were intense and extremely challenging. But with the support of the Ability Rehabilitation staff, he was able to persevere and come out successful.
“(The whole staff) was great, and everybody was really friendly,” says Jason. “I’m a big jokester myself and enjoy making everybody laugh, and everybody had a terrific personality. It was pleasant to come here and have a nice atmosphere. But then it was ‘all right let’s get down to work, let’s do it.’ And the exercises were excruciating, but in the end, it was always fun, always a good time.”
Keeping the knee joint as mobile as possible in the early stages following surgery is critical for achieving a full recovery. Loss of mobility in the knee is a common problem after ACL surgery.
Patients who are not diligent about exercising to restore their knee to full extension risk the buildup of scar tissue which can lead to arthrofibrosis and even arthritis.
Achieving Full Recovery
A person’s age, medical history, and lifestyle will all play a part in how long it takes to recover from ACL surgery fully. However, most patients will begin walking without support around one month after surgery.
Roughly six to eight weeks after surgery, patients will be ready for more dynamic agility and strengthening exercises. Some examples of dynamic drills include:
- Skipping forward and backward
- Jumping sideways
- Quick steps forward and stopping
- Fast stepping in place
ACL surgery recovery is a slow and steady process that can last anywhere from six months to a year. A successful ACL rehabilitation program stems from the determination and will of the patient, and the experience and proper support of their physical therapy team.
Jason appreciated the quality of care and support he received from the entire Ability Rehabilitation staff. “(They value) personal relationships, it wasn’t just about work,” Jason says.
“You’re not just another person on their sheet. You feel welcome and the desire to build a friendship, like ‘hey did you catch that game last night?’ We would talk more than just what was at hand. If I need to come back or do anything else or for a different part (of my body), it would definitely be here. I recommend it to anybody.”