ACL Problems & Treatments

 

ACL Rehabilitation: Knee Flexion

Begin your rehabilitation with exercises that develop muscle control. These help you meet basic goals, like driving a car or going back to work. Exercise as often as you're advised. But stop right away if any exercise causes sharp or increasing pain. Icing your knee for 15-20  minutes after exercise can help prevent swelling and soreness.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs out and feet flexed forward. Place a towel around the heel of your injured leg.

  • Pull the towel toward you, sliding your heel toward your buttocks. Keep the heel in contact with the floor.

  • When you feel a stretch (tightness) in the knee, hold the position for 10 seconds. Slide your foot back out. Repeat 5 times.


ACL Rehabilitation: Quad Sets

Begin your rehabilitation with exercises that develop muscle control. These help you meet basic goals, like driving a car or going back to work. Exercise as often as you're advised. But stop right away if any exercise causes sharp or increasing pain. Icing your knee for 15-20 minutes after exercise can help prevent swelling and soreness.

  • Sit against a wall with your injured leg out straight.

  • Tighten your front thigh muscles and press the back of your knee down toward the floor.

  • Hold for 10 seconds. Release. Repeat 5 times.

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Treating Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a band of tough, fibrous tissue that stabilizes the knee. Injuries to the ACL are very common, especially among athletes. Treatment for your injury may or may not involve surgery. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury and how active you hope to be in the future. Your healthcare provider can discuss your treatment options with you.

Reduce Pain and Swelling

Whether or not you have surgery, you can help reduce pain and swelling with rest, icing, and elevation. Rest with your knee elevated above heart level. Put ice on your knee 3-5 times a day for 10-15 minutes at a time. (Keep a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.) Take any medications that are prescribed. And follow any other instructions you're given.

Use Crutches

Crutches can help you get around during your recovery. They reduce stress on your knee, helping it to heal. Follow your healthcare provider's advice about how much weight to put on your injured leg. Use crutches for as long as advised.

If You Need Surgery

For severe ACL injuries, you may need a procedure called ACL reconstruction. This is surgery that uses a graft (new tissue) to replace a torn ligament. If surgery is needed, your healthcare provider can give you more information about it.

Rehabilitation

Whether or not you have surgery, rehabilitation exercises are important. Exercise is needed to strengthen the muscles that support your knee. It will also help you regain flexibility, reduce pain, and prevent other knee problems in the future. Your healthcare provider can show you the best exercises for your knee. He or she will also tell you how long and how often to exercise.

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Severe or increasing pain in your knee or leg.

  • Swelling in your entire leg.

  • Heat or tenderness in your calf.

  • A fever that lasts more than 24 hours.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Stationary Bike

After you regain muscle control, it's time to build strength. This helps you be able to put your full weight on your leg. For best results, warm up and stretch before starting. If your injury is recent, wait until swelling and pain decrease before doing this exercise.

  • Once you can move your leg through a full turn, slowly pedal for 5-10 minutes. Alternate between pedaling forward and backward.

  • As your range of motion improves, pedal at a faster, steady pace.

  • To increase your endurance, pedal a few minutes longer and at a higher intensity each day.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Wall Slide Squats

After you regain muscle control, it's time to build strength. This helps you put full weight on your leg. For best results, warm up and stretch before starting. If your injury is recent, wait until swelling and pain decrease before doing this exercise.

  • Lean against a wall with your feet hip-width apart. Your feet should be about 18 inches from the wall.

  • Slowly slide down to a near-sitting position. Don't let your knees go past 90 degrees.

  • Hold for 10 seconds, then slide back up.

  • Repeat 5 times.

CAUTION: Do this exercise only if your healthcare provider says it's okay.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Hamstring Curl

Once you can bear weight on your leg without pain, start adding advanced exercises to your workout. Using gym equipment can be a good way to improve overall knee function. Before you begin, talk with a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer. Learn how to use the equipment the right way. Start slowly, and rest between each set. As you feel stronger, increase the number of sets.

  • Lie down on your stomach, being careful not to arch your back.

  • Place your heel beneath the bar of the weight machine.

  • Using a steady movement, lift your heel toward your buttocks as far as you comfortably can. Then let your leg uncurl with a slow and steady movement.

  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Caution: Ask your healthcare provider if you're ready to do this exercise. If you do too much too soon, you could create new knee problems, or even reinjure your knee.

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ACL Rehabilitation: Getting Back to An Active Life Style

Once you are ready for it, your healthcare provider will help you ease back into your active life. You can do certain exercises to help you develop agility (ease and quickness of movement). You may need to use a knee brace during certain activities.

Ask your healthcare provider if you're ready to do these exercises. If you do too much too soon, you could create new knee problems, or even reinjure your knee.

Increasing Your Agility

Agility training helps prepare your knee for stops and starts, jumping, landing, and changing directions. Keep in mind, your leg must be strong enough to handle this training before you begin. Ask your healthcare provider how long to exercise. And be sure to do a variety of workouts. This helps strengthen all the muscles around your knee.

  • Sideways steps, hops, and shuffles prepare you to return to sports like skiing and tennis.

  • Short sprints forward and backward help get you ready for stop-and-go activities like soccer, basketball, or even chasing a toddler.

  • Other exercises help you train for specific activities, such as running. Talk to your healthcare provider.

Returning to Favorite Activities

Keeping your knee strong and stable is a lifelong commitment. It may take up to a year of steady work to regain the full use of your knee. But as you feel better, you can start getting back to many of your favorite activities. Just be sure to take it easy at first. You may also need to wear a leg brace for certain sports. For best results, stick with daily workouts for as long as you stay active. And continue to do strength training up to 3 times a week.