What To Expect After Your ACL Surgery

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If you tear your anterior crucite ligament, also known as your ACL, your orthopedic doctor will likely recommend that you have knee surgery to repair the ligament. Mild tears may eventually heal on their own, but this requires a lot of rest and down time—and moderate to severe tears will never heal without surgery. ACL surgery itself is pretty straightforward, but you may be wondering what you can expect once the procedure is over. Well, here is a look.

Recovery Time

It takes most patients who have ACL surgery at least 6 months to completely heal. However, you will really only need to take it very easy for about three weeks. During this time, you'll need to keep the knee immobile and basically abstain from all physical activity. After these three weeks have passed, you will start physical therapy and will begin walking again, albeit with a crutch for a while. Slowly over the next few months, you will build up your activity levels until you are doing everything you did before the surgery.

Pain and Pain Management

You can expect to be in some pain, especially for the first two or three days post-surgery. Most of this pain is related to inflammation, so the better you are able to keep the swelling down with ice, the less pain you will experience. You will also be given some pain relievers to take. Only take them according to the instructions your doctor gives you. After a few days, you can wean yourself onto ibuprofen or naproxen, which you can obtain over the counter.

Bandages and Aids

When you first get home from surgery, your knee will be wrapped up in a bandage, and it will usually also be in a brace that immobilizes it. You'll have to wear this brace for a few weeks; your doctor may adjust its angle periodically. Your doctor will have you return to the office to have the bandage changed after a few days, but after the first time or so, you can typically do this yourself.

Incision Healing

Believe it or not, but the incision healing after ACL surgery is the easy part! This surgery is usually done laproscopically these days, which means it is performed through a couple of small incisions. These generally heal without worry within a week or two. The majority of the healing has to take place inside—in your ligament. 

If you have any additional worries about recovering from ACL surgery, reach out to your surgeon.