Although you can go home on the same day as surgery, recovering from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery is not a quick process. From the time you first undergo surgery through full rehabilitation, the process can take up to six months or more. You need to take it easy and follow a rehabilitation program to strengthen the muscles around the knee and to regain range of motion.
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For the best possible ACL recovery, you should always follow your doctor’s instructions. Learn more about what will happen after surgery to repair a torn ACL.
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Rest: Zero to Two Weeks After ACL Surgery
You may need someone to help you when you first go home from ACL surgery and expect to be out of work a few days to a few weeks, depending on how physically demanding your job is.
For the first couple weeks after surgery you will need to rest and care for the incision site.
- Prop your leg — at the calf or ankle — on a couple pillows four to six times a day. This helps reduce swelling.
- Keep the bandages on your knee clean and dry.
You can usually move your knee right after surgery, but it will be painful. Your doctor will give you some exercises you can do to keep the blood flowing in your leg and help prevent blood clots. It is important that you work on quad sets. Quad sets will assure your knee is fully straight and you won’t develop a contracture later on. Your doctor will also send you home with medication or advice for managing pain.
Move Around: Two to Four Weeks After ACL Surgery
About two weeks after surgery, you will be able to start putting some weight on your knee. Your doctor will probably fit you for a knee brace to wear for a few weeks.
You will also begin physical therapy between two and four weeks after surgery.
Rehabilitation: Two to Six Months After ACL Surgery
Rehabilitation is a vital part of your ACL recovery and is essential to getting back to regular physical activity. Your program can last anywhere from two months to six months or longer. Your doctor will help you find a program that is suited to your recovery goals.
Physical therapy programs include basic programs to help you regain strength and stability, injury-specific programs, or sport-specific programs.
When to call the doctor
If you have concerns about how you’re healing or have signs of infection, call your doctor right away.
- Blood soaking through the bandages
- Discharge coming from the incision
- Swelling or pain in your calf
- Fever above 101°F
- Pain that does not go away with medication
Your knee needs time to heal, so be patient and take it slow. Do not rush the recovery process or try to speed up recovery. It’s important to listen to your doctor and work with him or her to be sure your knee is healing correctly and that you’re not pushing yourself too fast or too soon.