Navigating ACL Injuries: Advice for a Faster, Safer Recovery Blog

Navigating ACL Injury and Recovery: Essential Insights

In this blog post, we delve into the complex world of ACL tear (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries—a common yet often misunderstood condition that can significantly impact participation in sport or exercise. Whether you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior, or simply someone who enjoys a physically active life, understanding the nuances of ACL injuries is important. This post aims to clarify common misconceptions, explore how physiotherapy can assist in recovery, and provide practical advice for both prevention and rehabilitation. Our goal is to help you manage and recover from ACL injuries more effectively, ensuring you can return to your favourite activities with confidence and less pain.

 

The Crucial Role of the ACL in Knee Stability

Understanding the function of the ACL is the foundation for recognising the impact of injuries and the importance of proper treatment. The ACL is a key ligament that helps stabilise your knee joint, essential for preventing the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur.

 

Do I actually need surgery for my ACL?

Not all ACL injuries require surgical intervention; while some can be managed effectively with physiotherapy alone. Deciding whether to undergo surgery for an ACL injury is a significant decision that depends on various factors, including the type of the tear(s), your lifestyle, and your activity goals.

 At Momentum Physio & Rehab Group, in consultation with a surgeon, we evaluate each case individually to recommend the best course of action. Conservative management should be offered to all patients (for a minimum of 3 months) and can be a suitable option for those with a stable and quiet knee (no swelling) that is not giving way despite. 

Ultimately, the decision should be made collaboratively by you, your physio, and your surgeon, taking into account your personal health goals and the specific demands of your daily activities.

 

Before Undergoing ACL Surgery: What You Should Know

If it has been decided that you require ACL surgery, knowing what to expect before, during, and after ACL surgery can significantly impact the recovery experience. Many of our patients wish they had known more about the recovery timeline and the importance of a proactive rehabilitation approach, which we provide here at our Traralgon clinic. 

Pre-operative; 

Before undergoing ACL surgery, achieving certain physical milestones can significantly enhance your surgical outcomes. Known as ‘prehabilitation’, this phase focuses on reducing swelling, regaining as much range of motion as possible, and strengthening the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings. Our physiotherapy team in Traralgon guides patients through targeted exercises that prepare the knee for surgery, which can lead to a smoother post-operative recovery.

Post-operative;

After ACL surgery, it is recommended that physiotherapy begins within the first two weeks. The initial phase post-surgery focuses on managing pain, reducing swelling, protecting the integrity of the new graft, normalising walking patterns, and regaining activation of the quadriceps muscles. Typically, patients are advised to use crutches, and depending on the surgical procedure and the surgeon’s preference, a brace may also be recommended. 

Most surgeons will schedule a follow-up appointment two weeks post-operatively, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months to assess your progress.

Setting Realistic Expectations

It is important for patients to understand that recovery from ACL surgery is a long-term commitment that can last anywhere from nine months to 18 months, depending on patient goals, your previous level of activity and the complexity of the surgery. For example, what graft the surgeon used, whether there were other involved injuries and other previous injuries. 

Goals should be set in rough phases; 

  1. Recover from the surgery/injury
  2. Introduction of activation and strengthening exercises
  3. Strength training
  4. Plyometrics and running
  5. Return to training
  6. Return to sport

“How do you rehab an ACL?” 

Rehabilitating an ACL injury, regardless of whether you choose conservative management or undergo surgical reconstruction, requires a well-rounded, calculated approach. The primary goal across both strategies is to manage the healing process effectively, ensuring that activities such as resistance training, jumping, hopping, and running are introduced at the right time to avoid strain on the graft or injury site. 

Initially, both paths focus on reducing pain and swelling, regaining range of motion, and strengthening the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, and progressing to jumping/running and sport. 

Specifically, post-surgery rehabilitation includes specific measures to protect the new graft while gradually reintroducing more demanding physical activities. The overarching phases of physiotherapy—ranging from initial pain management and gentle mobility exercises to advanced strength training and sport-specific drills—are remarkably consistent between the two approaches. At our clinic in Traralgon, we tailor each rehabilitation program to fit the individual needs of our patients, ensuring that whether you undergo surgery or opt for a conservative route, you receive the most effective treatment to safely return to your daily activities and sports.

 

Addressing Common Misconceptions

We’re committed to dispelling myths and providing accurate information to our community. Whether it’s the necessity of surgery for every ACL injury or the effectiveness of preventive measures, our clinic in Traralgon is your trusted source for ACL physio information.

  • Severity and Pain: Not all ACL injuries cause severe pain. Some might initially feel minimal discomfort yet have significant ligament damage. Proper diagnosis is essential, and decisions should not be based solely on pain levels.
  • Surgical Necessity: Not every ACL injury requires surgery. The decision depends on several factors including lifestyle, the degree of instability, and personal goals.
  • Injury Prevention: Though ACL injuries are common, effective prevention strategies can lower risks, emphasising the role of physiotherapy even for those not currently suffering from an injury.

At our clinic, we understand the complexities of ACL injuries and recovery. We offer personalised 1:1 consultations to guide our clients through their recovery journey, ensuring they receive the support needed to return to their active lifestyles with confidence. Remember, the path to recovery starts with understanding the facts and dispelling myths about ACL injuries.

 

If you’re facing an ACL injury or considering surgery, don’t navigate this journey alone. Contact our clinic today for a personalised consultation, and let’s work together to get you back to your best form

Experience the Momentum difference today!

We believe that modern physio should offer you care across the entire treatment journey to achieve your goals, from pain relief, to strengthening and reducing injury risk. This is why we created our purpose-built facility with access to state of the art technology and equipment.