Anybody who has ever had surgery can tell you to expect some pain and swelling. Unfortunately, this is true whether you have a simple ACL surgery or a complicated knee replacement. Swelling after ACL surgery
is not only common, it is almost guaranteed.
Why Does Swelling Occur After ACL Surgery?
The human body is a remarkable system that uses many different mechanisms to keep you healthy. One of the more important mechanisms is the inflammatory response. Whenever your body suffers some trauma, whether it is an insect bite or a surgical incision, your body responds with inflammation.
Why does it do this? Inflammation occurs to help protect your healthy tissues from further damage, and to help the injured tissue repair itself. The inflammatory response includes five tell-tale symptoms:
- Loss of function
Depending on the severity of the injury, you will experience each of the symptoms to varying degrees. Although it is necessary to repair the torn tissues in the knee, ACL surgery is essentially a trauma to your body, so its natural response will be inflammation, which almost always includes swelling.
How Can I Reduce Swelling After ACL Surgery?
Since you know that you can expect to have some pain and swelling, you can take steps to minimize these unfortunate side effects of ACL surgery. Planning your ACL surgery recovery
in advance is the first step in speeding up the healing process, minimizing discomfort, and getting back on your feet faster.
Active cold compression therapy is a proven technique for reducing swelling after ACL surgery, or any other injury. The reasons that this type of therapy is so effective include:
- Active cold - Reducing the temperature around your knee joint has the effect of slowing down cellular metabolism. This means less cell death and fewer damaged cells that will need to be replaced. Slower cellular metabolism also reduces the need for oxygen in healthy cells, which means that there is more oxygen available for the tissues that are healing. Active cold allows you to maintain a consistent temperature, which means the therapeutic cold can penetrate to deeper tissues and have more impact on swelling in the entire joint.
- Active compression - The inflammatory response often includes excess fluid, which contributes to swelling after ACL surgery. Active compression helps pump away this excess fluid, giving you greater range of motion and reducing the amount of swelling that occurs in the knee.
- Adjustable wraps - A specialized wrap that includes both active cold and compression is the best way to get the benefits of both of these important therapies. Wraps that conform to the knee joint ensure that the most surface area will benefit from cryotherapy, and that the active compression will occur in all the areas surrounding the knee joint.
The Game Ready active cold compression system will help you reduce swelling after ACL surgery. Talk to your doctor about finding a system in your area, or rent your own system while you recover. Contact us to learn more or find Game Ready near you.
Recovering from knee surgery, whether it is a torn ACL or MCL, typically follows a standard process. Although your recovery will be unique to your situation, you can expect to experience certain indicators of recovery along the way.
ACL & MCL Surgery Recovery Timeline
This infographic shows the various stages of recovery from ACL or MCL surgery. Some of the milestones that you will notice throughout the healing process include:
- Reduction of pain and swelling - In the first week after ACL or MCL surgery you will experience some discomfort and swelling as part of your body's natural reaction to the trauma. Using cold and compression therapy can help reduce the amount of time required to get through this stage of recovery.
- Full knee extension - Within a couple weeks you should regain the ability to fully extend your knee if you have followed the exercise recommendations of your physical therapist.
- Low-impact activities - After a few weeks of physical therapy you can start introducing light walking, cycling, and gentle strengthening and stretching exercises to continue improving the range of motion in your knee.
- Medium-impact activities - A couple months after knee surgery your damaged tissues should be healed enough to add more intensity to your exercise regimen, such as jogging and higher-resistance strength training.
- Limited athletics - After four months you can start to play sports that do not require side-to-side motion or pivoting. Cycling, running, and jumping rope should all be acceptable at this stage of recovery.
- Full recovery - Typically, after eight months you can start playing most sports. However, you should not expect to return to your pre-injury level of activity immediately. Using cold and compression therapy after sports sessions can help ensure that your recovery is a success.
Cold and compression therapy can be used throughout the recovery process to help reduce pain and swelling and improve range of motion.
The length of the recovery process varies for every individual. Some of the factors that play a role include:
- Your age
- The type and extent of the initial injury
- The type of surgery you have
- What you do to aid the recovery process
Getting adequate rest, following your physical therapist's recommendations, and using cold compression therapy all contribute to a faster healing process. Actively participating in your ACL or MCL surgery recovery is the best way to get back on your feet and back to normal activity more quickly.
Game Ready's patented active cold and compression therapy system is proven to help speed up the recovery process after knee surgery. Talk to your doctor about getting a system or find a provider near you.
Whether you need ACL surgery as the result of a sports injury or from another type of accident, the recovery timeline
is similar for most people. A full recovery can take six to nine months to return to your pre-injury condition with full range of motion and stability in the knee joint.
The path to recovery involves several stages, each with recommended activities for helping you heal faster and return to normal activity. The more closely you follow your doctor's instructions, the more likely you are to speed up the recovery process.
The Path to ACL Surgery Recovery
Although full recovery takes several months, many people can return to low-impact activities within weeks after ACL surgery.
- Recovery starts immediately - Your body will start healing the day of your surgery, and you can help it by actively participating in your recovery. You will learn strengthening and stretching exercises that will help you regain range of motion in the knee joint and ensure that you return to normal activity as quickly as possible. You can help speed up the healing process in the first few days after ACL surgery with cold and compression therapy. Cryotherapy helps reduce pain and swelling, while simultaneous compression enhances the benefits of cold therapy and helps brings freshly oxygenated blood and vital nutrients to the damaged tissues.
- Most healing happens within weeks - As ACL surgery recovery progresses you will learn more exercises and increase the intensity of your physical therapy. You can continue cold and compression therapy through this phase, especially if you continue to experience swelling. Your doctor will also recommend a knee brace to immobilize the joint and control the angle of flexion in the knee.
- Full recovery takes time and patience - The months after initial ACL surgery recovery can be challenging, especially for athletes. Although the pain and swelling will go away relatively quickly, you must limit your activity until the tissues in your knee have completely healed. Adding too much activity or increasing the intensity too much can lead to re-injury or prolong the recovery process unnecessarily. Work with your physical therapist to find the right balance of activity and rest in the months after ACL surgery.
Although ACL surgery recovery can be challenging, most people make a full recovery and return to normal activity, especially if they remain committed to physical therapy. Adding cold and compression therapy during the early stages of recovery can also help speed up this timeline.
If you are interested in adding cold and compression therapy to your ACL surgery recovery, find a Game Ready provider near you today.
Have you had ACL surgery? How long did your recovery take?
One of the best ways to ensure that you make a speedy and full recovery after ACL surgery
is to include cryotherapy as part of your rehabilitation plan. Cryotherapy is simply defined as the application of therapeutic cold to an injury. The effects of this therapeutic cold are many, and like other types of therapy, there are techniques you can employ to ensure that you get the most from your efforts.
Why to Use Cryotherapy After ACL Surgery
Cryotherapy is proven to have the following benefits:
- Pain reduction - When you apply cold to any part of your body, the nerve fibers in the area reduce their activity, which lessens your perception of pain, providing an analgesic effect. Cryotherapy also has the effect of reducing muscular activity, which also contributes to a reduction in pain.
- Swelling control - Swelling is a natural part of the inflammatory response that your body will go through after ACL surgery. Although a little swelling is normal, and in fact beneficial, too much swelling can impede the healing process and be uncomfortable for you. Cryotherapy reduces swelling by causing your blood vessels to alternate between dilation and constriction, removing the excess waste and fluid that contributes to swelling.
- Edema reduction - Vasoconstriction and vasodilation also contribute to edema reduction with the same pumping effect that helps control swelling.
- Faster healing - All of these factors combine to contribute to an overall faster healing process. Being in less pain will allow you to comfortably perform the exercises that your physical therapist recommends, and the healing effects of cryotherapy will help you get back on your feet faster.
Enhancing Cryotherapy After ACL Surgery
One way to employ cryotherapy is with the use of ice packs. Although this has been an effective method for decades, modern technology has made major strides that allow you to enhance the benefits of cryotherapy.
One of the drawbacks of ice packs is that they heat up over time and become gradually less effective. New cryotherapy systems use an ice reservoir and a constantly circulating flow of cold water to provide a consistent application of therapeutic cold. In combination with specialized wraps that cover the entire area around the knee joint, you benefit from deeper-penetrating, longer-lasting cryotherapy
Adding active compression to cryotherapy enhances all of its benefits. Active pumping helps remove excess fluid while bringing even more fresh blood and fluid to the damaged tissues to stimulate faster healing.
Game Ready uses patented technology to provide simultaneous active compression with the application of consistent therapeutic cold. Ask your doctor about using Game Ready after ACL surgery or find a provider
Have you tried cryotherapy for other injuries?
One of the most common side effects after ACL or MCL surgery is swelling. This is a result of your body's natural reaction to trauma and is an essential component of the inflammatory response. Inflammation actually helps your body heal, but too much swelling can be uncomfortable and impede the recovery process.
So how do you reduce swelling after knee surgery? The traditional method is RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), and although this is effective, there is now a better way.
How to Reduce Swelling After ACL or MCL Surgery
The best way to safely reduce swelling after knee surgery is with active cold and compression. Although ice packs are useful, they warm up as heat from your body transfers from your skin to the ice pack. This makes the therapy less effective over time. Static compression is also beneficial for swelling, but it also comes with some drawbacks.
Active Cold Therapy
Cryotherapy is a proven method for reducing the pain and swelling that is associated with knee surgery. The ability to maintain a constant temperature throughout the session enhances the healing effects of the therapy and helps reduce swelling in the following ways:
- Reduction of cellular metabolism - The application of cold slows down the metabolism of your cells, which means that they consume less energy and do not have to work as hard to survive. It also reduces local swelling in cells and other tissues.
- Reduction of excess fluid - Edema, or excess fluid in the body contributes to swelling. Applying cold to the area helps reduce the build-up of this fluid.
- Vasodilation and vasoconstriction - When cold is applied to an area, the underlying blood vessels go through several cycles of dilating and constricting, which helps improve the flow of blood and other fluids, contributing to the reduction of swelling.
Active cold improves all of these cryotherapy benefits by constantly circulating cold water through a patented system and keeping the temperature consistent.
Active Compression Therapy
Static compression is used to reduce edema and swelling, but active compression is a much more effective method for achieving the same effects. Game Ready uses active pneumatic compression to pump air through a specialized wrap that fits around the entire knee joint. This active pumping mimics the body's muscular movements to remove excess fluid and bring fresh blood and nutrients to injured tissues.
The combination of active cold and compression in the Game Ready system can help you reduce swelling after MCL or ACL surgery. You can use this system both immediately after surgery to control pain and swelling, and throughout your recovery.
If you are interested in introducing active cold and compression therapy to your knee surgery recovery, consider renting a Game Ready system. Find a provider near you to learn more about Game Ready and how it can help you reduce swelling and pain.
How much swelling did you experience after knee surgery?
ACL surgery is like any other type of surgery in that your body suffers some trauma from which it must recover. The recovery process varies with each individual, but one thing you can count on is experiencing some pain. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the pain and even make your recovery faster.
In most cases, ACL surgery is scheduled in advance, so you have some time to prepare both mentally and physically. As you prepare for your surgery, consider how you can integrate each of the following steps into your recovery.
5 Steps to Reduce Pain after ACL Surgery
- Rest - Your body needs energy to heal itself. The more you allow yourself to rest, the more energy you make available for the healing process. It's especially important to rest the affected knee, especially immediately after ACL surgery when the healing tissues have the most work to do.
- Cryotherapy - Cold temperatures applied to damaged tissue help reduce pain and swelling. Using cryotherapy after your ACL surgery will help the healing tissues in your knee repair themselves faster with less pain.
- Compression - Edema, or the excess build-up of fluid, contributes to pain and discomfort after ACL surgery. Applying uniform compression around the knee joint can help reduce this fluid build-up. Active compression takes this benefit a step further by pumping fresh blood to the area, which helps contribute to faster healing.
- Healthy Living - The best thing you can do for yourself after ACL surgery is maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially throughout the recovery process. Giving your body the nutrients it needs and getting ample rest will help you heal faster and therefore reduce the amount of pain you are likely to endure.
- Physical Therapy - When you are able to re-introduce motion, typically a week or two after surgery, working with a physical therapist can help ensure that you regain full range of motion with minimal pain. Although it is important to improve strength and flexibility in the knee joint, too much activity can actually slow down the recovery process.
Of course, your doctor may prescribe pain medications, especially for the few days after ACL surgery when pain is typically at its highest. Always follow your physician's recommendations and maintain an open dialogue with them throughout the recovery process.
If you want to avoid or reduce the amount of pain medication you are likely to need, talk to your doctor about cold compression therapy. The Game Ready System provides active compression in combination with cold therapy to reduce pain, control swelling, and help speed up the recovery process. If you're getting ready for ACL surgery, locate a Game Ready provider near you.
How do you plan to help manage pain after your ACL surgery?
ACL surgery recovery
takes time. The length of time varies depending on the severity of the injury and the type of surgery you have, but most people can expect to be back on their feet (possibly with crutches) after several weeks, and back to normal activities after several months.
Of course, nobody wants to be off their feet for long if it can be avoided. The fastest way to recover from ACL surgery, or any other injury, is to help your body heal faster.
Heal Faster, Speed Up ACL Surgery Recovery
When your body suffers an injury, its natural response is inflammation. Although this inflammatory response is necessary for the healing process, it can also slow down recovery if it's not controlled. The same is true for surgery, which essentially damages tissues in the effort to repair them.
So how do you heal more quickly and speed up ACL surgery recovery
? Give your body what it needs to repair itself:
- Nutrients - Eat healthy foods and ensure that you maintain a balanced diet.
- Rest - Don't push your body too hard during recovery; let all your precious energy go toward tissue repair.
- Ice - With inflammation comes swelling, which is not only painful, it also causes cell death and excess cell waste production near the injury. Application of cold therapy helps reduce swelling, protecting healthy cells from becoming damaged.
- Compression - Inflammation also causes edema, or excess fluid, to build up around damaged tissues. Active compression pumps it away, allowing fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients to reach the area.
The combination of cold therapy and compression provides even more benefits than either of these options alone. As the therapeutic cold slows down the body's inflammatory response, active compression removes edema and pumps away cellular waste while bringing vital nutrients to the area at the same time.
If you have the option, use any time before surgery to help you prepare your body. This can include cycling, stretching, and some strength training to help you build the muscle surrounding your knee joint. The better prepared you are before the operation, the faster your ACL surgery recovery will be. Always talk to your doctor before doing any activity with a damaged ACL. They will be able to tell you which activities are acceptable and which ones should be avoided.
Game Ready provides knee wraps for ACL surgery recovery and many other types of injuries. Our patented active cold and compression system is proven to help speed up surgery recovery. Contact us
, or ask your doctor or physical therapist how to get Game Ready so you can recover faster.
Do you have an ACL surgery scheduled? What are you doing to prepare?
When you recover from ACL surgery, knowing what to expect can make the process go more smoothly and make rehabilitation seem less intimidating. You also have the opportunity to make the healing process go faster if you understand what is happening in your body as it recovers.
Although every body is different, there are several stages you can expect to go through as you recover from ACL surgery
5 Stages to Recover from ACL Surgery
- First few days after surgery - The most notable effects immediately after surgery are pain and swelling. Your body's natural reaction to trauma is inflammation, which is actually an important part of the healing process. However, too much swelling can impede your recovery. Elevating your leg, taking the medications that your doctor prescribes, and using cold compression therapy will help you control the natural pain and swelling that occurs after ACL surgery.
- First two weeks after surgery - Although it is important to get ample rest during your ACL surgery recovery, it is equally important to introduce gentle exercise at this stage to help improve range of motion. Your physical therapist will recommend exercises that will help you build strength, increase flexibility, and return to normal range of motion. Cold compression therapy should be continued during this time as swelling will continue to be an issue.
- Weeks 3 through 6 - As the swelling starts to subside, your physical therapist will introduce more rigorous strength training and balancing exercises.
- Weeks 7 though 12 - Certain low-impact sports activities can be introduced at this stage, such as cycling, light jogging, and swimming. Because your ACL will still be healing, sports that involve physical impact are not recommended.
- Months 4 through 7 - Although there is an absence of pain and swelling at this stage, your body is still recovering from ACL surgery. Many sports activities are acceptable, or even recommended, but it's important to remember that although you might feel fully recovered, there is still a risk of re-injury if there is too much impact on the joint. Sports drills and conditioning exercises are recommended, while participation in athletic events is not.
If you are planning an ACL surgery, prepare in advance by renting a cold compression therapy system or working with your physical therapist to ensure that you have access to all the tools you need to speed up the recovery process. Contact Game Ready or find a local provider to learn more about how cold compression therapy can help you recover from ACL surgery more quickly.
Wouldn't you like to do everything you can to safely get back on your feet faster?
ACL surgery rehab takes time -- up to seven months to make a full recovery -- but you can make the healing process go faster by including cryotherapy. In the early stages of ACL surgery recovery
, your body responds with pain and swelling. Taking steps to control this inflammatory response can help you be more comfortable and get you back on your feet faster.
One of the most effective steps you can take is to introduce cryotherapy immediately after surgery, and to continue cold compression therapy while your body continues to have an inflammatory response.
Using Cryotherapy to Recover Faster from ACL Surgery
, or cold therapy, has several important effects on the body. It can help:
- Decrease pain - Unfortunately, ACL surgery comes with a certain amount of pain. Although your doctor will likely prescribe pain medication immediately following surgery, you can reduce or even eliminate the need for pain killers by using cryotherapy. Therapeutic cold numbs the damaged tissue and reduces the activity of nerve endings, which results in a decreased pain sensation.
- Decrease muscle spasms - Involuntary spasms in the muscles surrounding the knee can cause pain and disruption to the healing tissue. Cryotherapy helps prevent these muscle spasms so your body can heal without disruption.
- Reduce edema - The build-up of excess fluid in the body is a natural result of ACL surgery. However, edema can contribute to swelling and will ultimately slow down the healing process.
- Reduce swelling - Inflammation is necessary for healing, but too much can be painful. Excessive swelling also slows down ACL recovery and reduces the range of motion in the knee joint. Using cryotherapy causes the blood vessels to constrict, which reduces the amount of blood and fluid allowed to travel to the affected area, resulting in a reduction of swelling.
- Decrease metabolic activity - When tissue is injured, cells work extra hard to help it repair itself. When cells are working overtime they require more oxygen and will die more quickly while your body is in recovery mode. Cryotherapy reduces the metabolic activity of cells, which means they will need less oxygen and can continue to be effective for longer. This reduction in metabolic activity also has the effect of reducing secondary tissue.
These positive effects of cryotherapy are enhanced when combined with active compression. Game Ready's active cold compression technology allows therapeutic cold to penetrate deeper and last longer than ice alone. You also get the benefit of a natural pumping effect that actively draws excess fluid away from the knee so your ACL can recover more quickly.
Looking for a Game Ready system near you? Use our provider locator to find a local clinic.
ACL surgery recovery takes time, but there are a few steps you can take, and some activities to avoid, while you prepare to get back on your feet. From the outside, the small incisions on your knee might not look so serious, but the ligaments, muscles, and other tendons in your knee will be going through an elaborate healing process.
Hindering this healing can slow down the recovery process, resulting in a longer period of time before you can get back in the game.
Activities to Avoid During ACL Surgery Recovery
Your doctor will certainly provide instruction for ACL surgery recovery and physical rehabilitation, but these are a few activities that you should avoid during the healing process:
- Ignoring your doctor's instructions - Take the prescribed medications or talk to your doctor about another pain management solution like cryotherapy. Stay off your feet until you are told that it's okay to put pressure on your injured leg. Use the therapeutic devices that are recommended, such as crutches, cold compression systems, or knee braces.
- Trying to be active before you're ready - Your knee might feel good and you might be mentally ready to return to your previous activity level, but if your ACL is not fully repaired you could injure it again. The ACL provides stability in the knee; if it's not properly functioning you are risking a further delay in your recovery.
- Overdoing it in rehab - Working with a physical therapist is a great way to ensure that the muscles surrounding the knee joint help provide more stability. However, athletes that are anxious to get back in the game can sometimes overdo it with physical therapy, especially when they are able to do more strengthening exercises. Strengthening the quadriceps muscles too much too early in the healing process can stretch the graft that was used to repair the torn ligament.
Of course, there are plenty of activities you should do during ACL surgery recovery. Your doctor will likely recommend elevation, cryotherapy, compression, pain medications, and monitoring for infection. Follow instructions closely and ask your provider if you are uncertain about what you should or should not be doing during recovery.
Using Game Ready's active cold and compression therapy system is something you should do during ACL surgery recovery. The therapeutic cold and active compression contribute to a faster healing process, reduce swelling, and help manage pain. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about getting a Game Ready system to help you during ACL surgery recovery, or contact us to learn more.