How Long Does It Take to Recover After ACL Surgery?

How Long Does It Take to Recover After ACL Surgery?

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery is a common operation. Whether you’re an athlete or just eager to get back to your active lifestyle, you’re likely wondering how long recovery will take. Everyone's path to successful rehabilitation is different, but you can take some steps to aid in your recovery, and knowing what to expect can put you at ease. 

Board-certified sports medicine and orthopedic surgeon Michael Klassen, MD, specializes in minimally invasive arthroscopic surgical techniques, including ACL reconstruction, which uses smaller incisions than traditional open surgery. Keep reading to find out what your path to recovery might look like. 

Immediately after surgery

The first two weeks after surgery are spent reducing knee swelling and recovering knee extension. You should reach and maintain a complete knee extension two weeks after surgery. 

The following are ways to aid recovery:

Keep the circulation going 

Move your ankles up and down frequently right after ACL surgery. Repeat this exercise for two to three days to improve blood circulation and prevent blood clots in your legs. Inform Dr. Klassen if you get severe pain in the back of your calf. This could be a sign of a clot.

Elevate your leg

Maintain a minimum of a 45-degree angle on your operated leg. For the first three to five days after surgery, elevate your leg on cushions or pillows so that your knee is at least 12 inches above your heart. 

Keep your leg elevated if your knee swells or throbs when you're up and about on crutches. Pillows should not be placed behind your knees because this restricts knee motion. Pillows should be placed beneath your heel and calf.

Manage pain

For the first several days, pain is normal. Follow Dr. Klassen’s instructions for pain medicine. These could include over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers.

Flex your knee

Begin bending your knee slowly. Straighten your leg and bend your knee at the same time. By the time you return for your first post-operative appointment a week after surgery, you should have a range of motion of 0 to 90 degrees.

Rehabilitation

The moment you wake up in the recovery room, your rehabilitation program to regain the range of motion in your knee begins. Most patients are encouraged to lift their legs without assistance while lying on their backs during the first week after surgery (straight leg lifts). Patients frequently walk without crutches by the end of the second or third week.

Physical therapy sessions typically begin seven to fourteen days after surgery. Weight-bearing is permitted during physical therapy if the meniscus has not been repaired.

For the first two months, aim for a range of motion of 0 to 140 degrees.

Early on, avoid working your quadriceps because this can extend the ACL graft. Stationary bike riding or modest leg presses are recommended during the first three months after surgery. These workouts use the hamstrings to protect the ACL graft while strengthening the quadriceps.

It can take six to 12 months to recover from ACL surgery. We aim to help you have as smooth a recovery as possible. 

When it comes to ACL surgery and recovery, we’re in your corner every step of the way. If you have questions, schedule a visit with Dr. Klassen by calling or booking online today. We can help you get back to the life you enjoy.  

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