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ACL Reconstruction: Here's What To Expect on The Road to Recovery

If you’re active, odds are good that it’s this very lifestyle that led to the need for an ACL repair. But rather than reconfiguring your life to one that takes your knee out of the equation, the endgame of an ACL reconstruction is to get you back out on the field, the track, the slopes, or wherever you prefer to compete or just blow off some steam. But you need to do your part during your recovery.

Here at our practice, board-certified orthopedic surgeon Steven E. Nolan, MD, has an extensive background in sports medicine, and his goal with every procedure is to help his Sugar Land, Texas, patients get back to their active lives. If you’ve damaged your ACL, the good news is that we can repair it, but it will take plenty of time and patience.

While Dr. Nolan performs the procedure using the latest minimally invasive techniques, reducing your risks and collateral damage by relying on small incisions and instruments, it’s still surgery, and it’s still a new ligament. In other words, you’ll need to muster patience during your recovery to ensure that everything heals properly.

Here’s what you should expect on the road to recovery after an ACL reconstruction.

The first two weeks

Immediately after your surgery, you’ll likely be able to return home, though you should clear your schedule for a few days while you recover from the procedure itself. You should expect some discomfort and swelling, which are easily remedied through over-the-counter or prescription medications, as well as rest and elevation.

But unlike surgeries of old, we do want you moving your knee as quickly as possible, sometimes on the same day as your surgery. The exercises are non-weight-bearing and are designed to keep your knee moving and to keep the healing resources flowing in. In the first two weeks, these exercises concentrate on extension.

Speaking of bearing weight, we give you crutches and ask that you use them until we give you the green light (it may take a week or two, or more if you had extensive work done). You won’t be able to drive while you have crutches, so a little forward planning is always a good idea.

Weeks two to six

Once you no longer need crutches, we get you started on physical therapy to strengthen your knee and encourage flexion. It’s important that you follow your physical therapy instructions to the letter, especially during these early days, as the specially designed exercises are geared toward the future use of your knee.

Skipping steps, or not doing the exercises, can set you back and jeopardize the proper healing of your knee.

Week six to three months

During this phase of your recovery, we want you to use your knee more and develop more confidence in it. Under our watchful eye, you should continue your physical therapy at home and begin to add more activity to your day, such as walking.

Three to six months

This phase is critical because it’s the final step in your recovery before you can return to sports. During this time, we’re going to test your knee, without overdoing it, with some light running and other forms of exercise that gently push your knee in terms of range of motion and endurance.

It’s important during this time not to push too hard; doing so can send you backward very quickly. By the same token, we don’t want you to “baby” your knee. If you follow our instructions, we help you strike just the right balance for your unique situation and lifestyle.

The final phase

This is your long-anticipated moment — your full return to the activities you enjoy. We monitor your progress throughout your entire recovery and decide when it’s prudent to send you back into the game — of course, slowly at first. Before you know it, you’ll be back in action with a knee that’s up to the task.

If you have more questions about recovering after an ACL reconstruction, please give us a call or use the online scheduler to book an appointment.

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