Overcoming Muscle Atrophy After ACL Reconstruction
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are one of the most devastating knee injuries. The ACL is critical to knee stability, and when torn, it often requires surgical reconstruction followed by up to a year of rigorous physical therapy.
One of the greatest challenges to recovering from an ACL tear is the prevention of and rehabilitation from muscle atrophy. Atrophy is the weakening or loss of muscle tissue resulting from disuse.
What Happens After an ACL Tear?
The first sensation patients typically describe during an ACL injury is a “pop” in the knee, followed by:
The ACL, located deep within the knee joint, cannot repair itself once torn. Minor damage to the ligament may be overcome with rest and a proper physical therapy program. However, surgery is recommended for those who experience knee instability after an ACL injury.
During arthroscopic ACL reconstruction, the torn ACL is replaced with a new piece of tissue made into a graft and inserted into the bones through a few small incisions in order to restore the structure of the ACL.
Following the minimally invasive outpatient procedure, nine to twelve months of ACL rehabilitation are required in order to restore stability to the knee. The main focus early on is to improve range of motion in the knee joint. Later, therapy shifts towards regaining strength in the weakened muscles around the knee that have atrophied since the surgery from disuse.
Avoiding Muscle Atrophy after ACL Surgery
The more proactive a patient can be immediately following ACL surgery, the better the results. It is recommended that patients in Los Angeles, start the following soon after surgery:
- Weight bearing
- Doing safe quadriceps exercises several times a day
Patients who do this typically develop less atrophy than those who try to “baby” their leg after surgery.
Though early activity is encouraged, it is important to adhere to the guidelines set forth in your ACL rehabilitation program. Exercise that is too rigorous can overstress the knee and increase the risk of re-injury. Ultimately, a proper balance of commitment and patience will greatly improve your chances of a successful and timely recovery.
To learn more about ACL surgery, visit WebMD.com.
Contact a Beverly Hills Orthopedic Surgeon
Steven W. Meier, MD, Director of Meier Orthopedic Sports Medicine in Los Angeles, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in sports medicine and minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. Dr. Meier and his team utilize the most advanced medical knowledge and innovative surgical techniques to help ensure the best possible recovery from an ACL injury. Contact Dr. Meier today at (310) 777-7845 to schedule an appointment for consultation in our Beverly Hills office.
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