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5 Recommendations to Recover Fully After ACL Reconstruction

5 Recommendations to Recover Fully After ACL Reconstruction

If you’re facing ACL reconstruction surgery, you already know you have a long road to recovery ahead. 

Tearing one of the four major ligaments in your knee means there will also be significant life changes as you adjust your plans and expectations, undergo surgery, and work to get back to normal.

Here at Steven E. Nolan, MD, we understand your desire to return to full physical abilities as soon as possible. Here are five recommendations to help you recover fully after ACL reconstruction.

1. Reduce swelling

Swelling is normal after surgery — it’s part of your body’s response to the trauma of surgery. However, it causes increased pressure in your knee and keeps your muscles from working properly. Your goal should be to reduce this swelling as much as possible so your healing can begin.

After Dr. Nolan completes the surgery, you can treat the swelling with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (known as the RICE protocol). Aim for three or four 15-minute sessions with ice each day.

2. Get to full extension

After surgery, getting your knee back to a place where you can achieve full extension (making it completely straight) is one of your most important goals. You’ll walk with a permanent limp if you don't achieve this. Keeping your knee bent essentially keeps you in a mini-squat all day, fatiguing and shortening your muscles.

When your surgery process is complete, you’ll begin physical therapy to regain the strength and function in your knee and leg. Your physical therapist gives you extension stretch exercises, such as sitting or lying down with your leg stretched out in front of you and holding that position.

3. Strengthen your quads

Your quad muscles in the front of your thigh protect your ACL. Quads are important for ensuring your knees don’t buckle when you walk and for stabilizing your knees. Keeping your quads strong also reduces your risk for further injury, so make sure your physical therapist focuses on exercises to build your strength. You can start with straight leg raises.

4. Eat and sleep well

As you recover from surgery, your body begins rebuilding tissue, which requires lots of protein, dairy, vegetables, and vitamins to support bone strength and digestive health.

Getting plenty of sleep is also one of the best things you can do to help your recovery go well. Follow good sleep hygiene practices, and ensure you get at least 7-8 hours a night.

5. Don’t rush

This one is hard. You want to be back to normal as soon as possible, back on the court or the field, back running again, back to what you used to do. If you push yourself too hard and do more than Dr. Nolan or your physical therapist recommend, you risk reinjuring your knee.

It’s more important to follow protocol so you learn to move correctly and reduce the chance of reinjury than to get back to your activities quickly. You can work hard and push yourself, but do it wisely and under supervision.

Following these tips will get you back to normal sooner rather than later. If you need more advice or treatment, our Steven E. Nolan M.D. team is here for you. Call our Sugar Land office at 281-720-6909 or book an appointment with our online scheduler today.

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