ACL surgery

A Guide to Effective Rehabilitation Techniques for ACL Surgery Recovery

A Guide to Effective Rehabilitation Techniques for ACL Surgery Recovery

Following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery, perform ankle movements, moving them up and down about 10 times every 10 minutes. Maintain this exercise routine for two to three days to promote blood circulation and reduce the risk of blood clot formation in your legs. Should you experience acute pain in the back of your calf, inform your doctor promptly, as it could be an early indication of clots.

Lift the leg

Ensure that your operated leg remains elevated at a minimum of a 45-degree angle during the initial recovery period. Support your leg with cushions or pillows, positioning your knee at least 12 inches above your heart for the first three to five days following the ACL surgery. Maintain the elevation if your knee swells or becomes painful when you are mobile on crutches. Avoid placing pillows behind your knee as it restricts knee movement; instead, position pillows under your heel and calf for proper support.

Anticipate some pain and discomfort during the initial days. Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding pain relief. This might involve using over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or in some cases, more potent narcotic medications.

Knee flexion

Start the process of gradually bending your knee. Practice straightening your leg and then bending your knee. If needed, use your hands to support the bending motion. Attempt to have a range of motion from 0 to 90 degrees by the time of your first post-operative appointment, which will be roughly a week following the procedure.

Check for fever

It is normal to experience a low-grade fever, reaching up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.3 degrees Celsius, for about four or five days following the ACL surgery. However, if your temperature exceeds this range or persists for a longer duration, it is important to inform your doctor. You can use acetaminophen to help lower your temperature.

Remove the bandage

Typically, the dressing on your knee is removed the day after the ACL surgery. You might experience slight fluid drainage for up to two days, during which sterile dressings or bandages may be applied. After the surgery, it’s essential to maintain the wound’s cleanliness and keep it dry. Until the sutures are removed, it is advisable to take sponge baths instead of full showers or baths.


The rehabilitation program to regain knee range of motion after the ACL surgery starts immediately after you wake up in the recovery room. In the initial week post-surgery, patients are typically instructed to perform straight leg raises while lying on their backs, lifting their legs without any assistance. As the second or third-week approaches, most patients can usually walk without the need for crutches, specifically designed to support individuals recovering from ACL surgery. This gradual progression helps in restoring the knee’s mobility and strength during the recovery process.

Physical therapy sessions typically commence seven to 14 days following surgery. In the course of these sessions, weight bearing is permitted for individuals who did not undergo a meniscus repair.

For the first two months, a range of motion of 0 to 140 degrees is a reasonable target.

To safeguard the ACL graft, it’s important to avoid early quadriceps work. Instead, consider engaging in activities like stationary bike riding or performing lightweight leg presses in the initial three months post-surgery. These exercises effectively strengthen the quadriceps while also utilizing the hamstrings to protect the ACL graft.

For a period of five months after the ACL surgery, refrain from swimming or running. However, you may engage in swimming using only your arms, without paddling your feet, at approximately two to three months post-surgery.

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