Recovering From Arthroscopic Repair Of A Torn ACL

Posted on: 23 May 2016

You felt your knee pop when you fell and you immediately had pain and swelling in your joint. A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a common knee injury. The orthopedic surgeon will do arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn ligament, which is a much less invasive procedure than traditional knee surgery. You'll still be faced with several weeks of recovery to gain back the full use of your knee. Here is what you can expect immediately after the repair and during the weeks following.

The Day of Your Surgery

You'll have the arthroscopic repair done in an outpatient surgery clinic or in the orthopedic doctor's clinic. From start to finish, the procedure will take just a couple of hours. You'll spend time in the recovery area afterwards while the anesthetic wears off.

Before you're discharged to go home, the doctor or their staff will go over some instructions with you:

  • You'll be shown how to monitor the small bandages covering the two incisions on your knee for drainage and what constitutes an abnormal amount of drainage.
  • You'll be instructed as to how to walk using crutches and how much weight you can put on the knee.
  • You'll be given prescriptions for pain medication and instructions on how to manage the pain in your knee with them.

Finally, you'll be given a follow up appointment to see your surgeon in a few days.

Your First Few Days at Home

For a few days after surgery, you'll take it easy as the tissues in your knee heal. Ligaments heal much slower than other tissues, such as muscle. You'll be able to move around your house, but will need to avoid any activity that puts stress on your knee.

When you go in for your follow up appointment, the doctor will evaluate your progress. If they are satisfied with the rate of healing, they will have you begin the next phase of your recovery.

Physical Therapy

You will now spend several weeks doing physical therapy to regain the use of your knee. This will happen in two phases. The first phase restores normal motion in your knee joint and the second builds up the muscle strength. You will work with a physical therapist in their clinic and be given exercises to do at home.

Range of Motion

The physical therapist will first help you regain the movement of your knee in all of its normal directions. They will begin with passive range of motion exercises, where they move your leg and knee for you. As the muscles in your stiff knee begin to stretch out and relax, you'll begin doing active range of motion exercises. With these exercises, you'll move your own leg and knee. Once you've regained nearly normal movement in your knee, you'll move to the next phase of physical therapy.

Muscle Strengthening

Strong knee muscles not only help you move, but they protect the knee joint from injury. You'll work on resistance machines in the clinic and you'll be given exercises to do at home between sessions.

Each of these phases of physical therapy will take several weeks. It will be important to set a pace that allows you to slowly make progress without overworking your knee. Should you push yourself beyond what your knee is ready for, you'll risk re-injuring the knee and delaying your recovery time. A physical therapist, like one at Eastern Shore Physical Therapy, can answer any further questions you may have.