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The Rehabilitation Journey After ACL Surgery

Now that you’ve gone through anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery, what’s next?

After surgery, your rehabilitation from ACL surgery can take some time depending on how well you adhere to your post-op instructions. Remember, recovery is the critical time in which you balance your desire to return to an active lifestyle with the need to fully recuperate in order to avoid re-injury. Therefore, how fast you heal is dependent upon:

  • Concomitant injuries to the menisci, articular cartilage and ligaments
  • Pre-operative rehabilitation
  • Patient motivation
  • Strict adherence to a proper exercise regimen and activities time frame for post-operative ACL rehabilitation

Simply put, you determine at least half of the results for a successful outcome from your knee surgery .

While those who have a tendency to be active have the greatest desire to return to their previous level of activity as quickly as possible, they are also at the greatest risk of re-injury due to over-stressing the knee too early, which can typically lead to graft failure, pain, incomplete healing, and/or inadequate structured rehabilitation. The best advice: you have just had surgery, and you need to allow a proper amount of time to give your body the full chance to heal correctly. Not only will you shorten your recovery time, but you will also avoid the possibility of additional surgeries and complications due to insufficient healing and re-injury.

Recovery Timelines for ACL Surgery

Recovery timeframes vary for ACL surgeries depending on the severity of the injury or whether it is a repeat injury. Here is a standard timeline of what many people can expect during their rehab (but not necessarily how each case will go):

  • Rest, ice, compression, elevation — 2-4 weeks (immediately after surgery)
  • Walking and biking — 12 weeks
  • Running — 6 months
  • Competitive sports — no earlier than 8 months (9-12 months typical)

It is critical that you speak with your surgeon before resuming the above activities. The rates of re-injury to the reconstructed knee or of sustaining an ACL rupture on the contralateral knee range from 3 percent to 49 percent due to a premature return to athletic activity. Dr. Meier’s vast experience with athletes, injured workers, and other individuals means that he can properly assess your functional ability post-operatively and provide solid recommendations on your ability to return to activity.

Improving Your Chances For a Successful Rehabilitation

Understand that the body’s healing processes are fairly standard across the board, and they cannot be rushed. You will heal, but you will not heal well by trying to hurry along these natural processes. Accept that rehabilitation and recovery will take time. So what can you do to ensure a better surgical outcome and make the road to recovery a bit easier on yourself? Here are a few measures you can take post-surgically to ensure a complete recovery:

  • Follow your post-op instructions, including appointments with a licensed physical therapist and following a proper ACL rehabilitation program.
  • Go to all of your follow-up appointments.
  • Perform all rehab exercises and follow the program as prescribed.
  • Get proper nutrition to boost your body’s healing process.
  • Get plenty of rest, as it is true that your body heals as you sleep.
  • Take medications as prescribed.
  • Inform Dr. Meier of any changes or concerns during the recovery process.
  • Ask for help from family and friends in an effort to not over-exert yourself with daily activities.

By following your post-operative instructions and giving your body the adequate time to heal, you can decrease your chances of re-injury, enjoy a better recovery process, and ultimately speed up your recovery time.

Speak with a Beverly Hills Orthopedist Today

Dr. Meier is a leading expert in orthopedic surgery. If you have any specific questions about ACL reconstructive surgery or the recovery process, please contact Meier Orthopedic Sports Medicine by scheduling an appointment or calling (310) 777-7845.


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The information available on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace a medical consultation where a physician's judgment may advise you about specific disorders, conditions and or treatment options. We hope the information will be useful for you to become more educated about your health care decisions.