12 days of ACL recovery tips

With Christmas in the air, Nan’s secret fruit pudding on our minds and the Christmas tree sitting in the loungeroom corner, we thought we’d take advantage of the festive spirit to help break down the initial stages involved in recovering from an ACL injury.

Rehabilitation from an ACL reconstruction takes time and we’ve no doubt you have questions about what to expect during the first week or two. We trust that this familiar jingle will help keep each stage top of mind as you go through the recovery motions that will get you moving again. Remember, each tip should be followed during the initial stages of your recovery for best results.

On the first day of recovery my true love gave to me… a very sore and swollen knee. As is the case for any surgery, you will feel sore and swollen after your knee reconstruction. Recovery starts from the moment you leave surgery. Your doctor will either send you home that afternoon or 1-2 days later, depending on your unique needs. Your doctor and physiotherapist will go through the milestones of recovery and give you some exercises to follow at home.

On the second day of recovery… you might be walking with crutches and experience low mobility in your knee. This is an important time for rest and ensuring your knee joint is comfortable, straight and elevated to above the level of your heart.

On the third day of recovery… you will still be in rest mode. Make sure you regularly ice your knee and, if your knee is swollen, use a compression bandage during the day.

On the fourth day of recovery… you will need to keep staying on top of pain management. Taking pain medication regularly and gradually can help you avoid any discomfort during recovery.

On the fifth day of recovery…don’t be afraid to bend your knee! It is safe to bend the knee after your ACL reconstruction and the bending won’t come without a little gentle pushing on your behalf. While some people are apprehensive about bending because it might damage their new ACL, avoiding this movement can lead to problems through your rehabilitation and stiffness.

On the sixth day of recovery… you may still find yourself wearing a knee brace to support your knee joint. Your doctor will determine whether this is needed or not for your recovery.

On the seventh day of recovery… and from the moment you leave hospital, you will need to start following your physiotherapist’s prescribed exercises so you can start to regain full movement of your knee. You will need to follow these daily to help get your knee moving again.

On the eighth day of recovery… you will probably find that you can place some weight on your leg. In fact, unless otherwise advised by your doctor, you can place as much weight on your leg as is comfortable from the day after surgery.

On the ninth day of recovery… you might find that you can progress to using just one crutch in the opposite arm to your operated leg or move off crutches altogether.

On the tenth day of recovery… you will notice improvements in your knee’s movement. During weeks 1-2 you should find that you have regained full range of movement at your knee.

On the eleventh day of recovery… you will start to become a stationary bike expert! The stationary bike is a great way to get your blood circulating around your knee, which will help boost your recovery and increase movement in your knee. Remember to keep the resistance low.

On the twelfth day of recovery… you will find that you’ve made a lot of progress with your knee’s movement and mobility. While you can achieve a lot in the first two weeks of your recovery, it’s important to continue to focus on your rehabilitation, to avoid any activities that may cause further injury and to follow your exercises and advice provided by your doctor.

If you are recovering from an ACL injury this silly season, Dr Stuart MacKenzie has created a free specialist e-guide to help you through the stages of recovery.

18 Dec 2018

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