ACL Post-Operation Tips

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery can improve the function and stability of your knee following an injury. Most surgeries involve fully replacing the ACL with a different tendon from another part of your body.

Although the procedure itself is relatively quick, many doctors liken the recovery period from an ACL surgery to a marathon rather than a sprint. This is because it is important to rebuild strength and stability in the knee slowly and carefully. Too fast too soon could cause further damage.


Here are our top tips for a great recovery after ACL surgery.

Immediately Post-Operation

If you have had a general anesthetic you can expect to feel quite groggy and disorientated until the anesthetic wears off fully. You will remain in bed until this time. Your surgeon will also provide you with adequate pain relief to manage any discomfort that you may feel.

You should not drive, operate machinery, drink alcohol or sign any legal documents for at least 24hrs after your operation. This is because a general anesthetic can affect your co-ordination, reaction and reasoning skills. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you overnight.

If you have had a local anesthetic then you can expect it to take a few hours for the feeling to return to your knee. You will be asked to remain laying or seated with your leg raised.

You can expect your knee to be covered with a small dressing, and for it to be put into a brace to support it as it heals. As soon as you are able to, you will be encouraged to move around and put weight on your knee as this will minimize swelling and inflammation and help with the healing process.

Before you leave you will speak to a physical therapist who will advise you of some specific exercises that you should perform while you recover. A nurse will also give you advice on cleaning your wounds and changing your dressing, and will book you a follow-up appointment a short while after your surgery.

The Recovery Process

During the recovery process, you may feel that you need pain relief, particularly in the early days. Over-the-counter pain relief such as ibuprofen or paracetamol should be sufficient.

If you find that you are still in pain, consult with your doctor for further advice. Swelling is a common side effect of the operation. Ice packs wrapped in a towel can help reduce pain and inflammation.

After surgery, we will refer you to one of our physical therapists. He or she will work with you to establish a rehabilitation program that will help you recover well and get the best result from your ACL surgery.

Your physical therapist will give you exercises to perform at home. Complete these as directed to speed up your recovery process.

Eating well after your surgery can help your body to heal faster too. Recommended foods include lean protein (chicken, turkey, and fish), dairy and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Another great healer is sleep. While you sleep your body repairs tissue and heals itself, so maintaining an average of 8 hours a night can help you to recover from your ACL operation.

Returning to Work

It usually takes around six months to fully recover from an ACL operation, although this can vary from person to person. If you have a desk job, then you should be able to return to work three to four months after your procedure. However, if you have an active job you should carefully follow the advice of your surgeon as you may need up to six months off of work. Have any more questions about the recovery proces for ACL surgery? Call our office today, and we will be glad to help you out - (516) 289-9300.