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Understanding Your ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline


acl surgery recoverySurgery to repair and reconstruct your anterior cruciate ligament is often needed because doctors find that an untreated ACL tear leads to knee instability, recurring injury, or damage to other parts of the knee. Vigorous people who want to regain a physically-active life often opt for ACL surgery and commit to the required physical therapy. Rehab following ACL surgery isn’t quick and easy; fortunately, excellent rehab technologies are available, such as one that combines cold and compression therapy to speed up ACL surgery recovery.

While everyone heals at different rates, there are some general guidelines on what to expect for your ACL surgery recovery.

Immediately post-op

The goal here is to reduce swelling, minimize pain, and work on knee extension. According to the University of Minnesota Orthopaedics Sports Medicine Institute, “We have found that the most important postoperative item is to make sure that the patient gets the knee out straight (full extension) as soon as possible after surgery.”

This is usually accomplished with the use of cold and compression therapy, which studies have shown will improve pain relief and accelerate knee flexion ability.

Weeks 1-2

Your medical and rehab team will likely start you on range-of-motion exercises so that you regain full knee extension as soon as possible. You’ll probably be non-weight bearing for the first two weeks, and most physical therapists will want you to continue to use cold and compression treatments to help keep down swelling, reduce pain and speed your ACL surgery recovery.

Weeks 3-6

Depending on your pre-surgery physical condition, most therapists will start you on walk exercises, gentle strengthening work and limited aerobics. Some therapists recommend regular exercise on a stationary bike to enhance your strength and motion and get your heart rate up. Adding in cold and compression therapy can help further. One study found that 83 percent of all patients who used the ACCEL™ device were able to discontinue use of all pain medication, compared with only 28 percent of those who didn’t use this treatment method.

Weeks 7-12

You’ll increase your activity level; some patients begin jogging around the 12th week, if their medical and physical therapy team feels they’re ready. Other activities that you may begin to enjoy at this stage include outdoor cycling, water workouts, jumping rope, and lateral shuttles. Experts advise avoiding sports that require side-to-side or pivoting motions such as basketball, soccer or football. Continue to ice down your knee and apply compression, because at this stage you’ll find, as do many other users of the ACCEL™ system, that it helps you recover faster from your workout so you don’t lose days due to swelling or pain.

Months 4-7

If you pass functional and strength training exercises from your physical therapist, then you may be ready to participate in most all sports. Some therapists will start you on what’s called sports simulating activities, such as light hitting for a tennis player or ball dribbling for a soccer player. It’s important not to get frustrated at this point, because your knee may feel normal, yet you don’t want to overstress it. Stay with your cold and compression therapy to keep you on track with rehab schedules.

No one can say with certainty when you’ll be able to fully return to normal activities, but you improve your chances of a full recovery if you stick with your physical therapy and use cold and compression treatments to speed healing and lessen pain. How long was your ACL recovery?



Going in for an ACL Reconstruction Surgery Shortly. Read about cold and compression therapy (Game Ready). Need to know your Indian Distributors in Bangalore, INDIA. Ask them to call me on 9448358210 or +91-80-23548210 (IST 11.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.)
Posted @ Tuesday, December 17, 2013 6:11 AM by Dr R Guruprasad
I had my acl and meniscus surgery on a Tuesday, I was off work for 3 days and after the weekend I was back to work. O and I do construction. I am now doing light sports and my knee feels stronger everyday!!!
Posted @ Tuesday, December 24, 2013 5:19 PM by Richard Espinoza
Richard, this is the biggest lie I have ever heard. You must be some sort of medical marvel.
Posted @ Thursday, March 27, 2014 1:05 PM by Kevin
The recovery time will be greatly affected by the way you decided to rehabilitate yourself. I hurt my shoulder a couple years ago and because I went to a physical therapist, I was able to get back out on the field about 2 months before than someone that wouldn't have gone.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 01, 2014 3:53 PM by Luke
I will have surgery in two weeks to reconstruct my ACL. I plan on working on full extension of my knee and applying cold and compression.
Posted @ Sunday, April 06, 2014 12:32 PM by Kar La
Tore my ACL on 3rd of January, had surgery on the 17th of March, waited for the swelling to go down. On crutches for two-three days after surgery, then I was walking with the brace after that. Never was in real pain, stopped taking the meds after one week. Been four weeks know, going to PT, and I have pretty much full extension but not 120 rotation of knee. Still walk with a noticeable limp. But I'm back riding my motorcycle with the brace after four weeks from surgery.
Posted @ Friday, April 18, 2014 2:25 PM by KENNY
Hi all. I tore my ACL on April 6th in our first basketball game. I play in a public league. I'm trying to get things settled insurance wise (I just got health insurance) and hopefully I can get my MRI this coming Friday. I saw my orthopedic doctor the week that I injured my knee and after going through certain tests, he told me that my ACL is torn. I can barely walk or if it's even considered walking. The battle has been mental, this is my first serious injury of my life. Any advice on anything? I graduate on June 14th and I'm trying to get an idea if I'll be able to walk on that day if I get surgery within these next few weeks... Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Posted @ Tuesday, April 29, 2014 3:33 PM by John
I tore my ACL on March 17th and had surgery April 29th. When my surgeon went into my knee to replace my ACL he saw the meniscus was much worse than we thought and had to repair it. I am non-weight bearing for at least a week until I go to my follow up appointment but I am sure I will be non-weight bearing for a while. My medical team gave me an ice machine and it has done wonders already. I strongly recommend it to everybody.
Posted @ Tuesday, April 29, 2014 10:29 PM by Joshua Hurst
I tore my medial meniscus and had a bucket handle tear on May 5, 2014. It took me three weeks to get into an orthopedic surgeon and he said my meniscus tear was a secondary condition. He said I also have a non-functional acl. Apparently, I had torn it 22 years ago when I was skiing and came off a jump, hyperextended, and heard a pop. This was followed by a lot of swelling. Well, I really didn't know I had done anything and life went on. I ran a marathon in '09, have played basketball, rode horses, water-skied, snowskiied, etc. The surgeon was pretty shocked when he listened to my activity level and was surprised I had gone this long without more damage to other parts of my knee. I elected to have the acl reconstruction with a meniscotomy (I can never spell that right) to deal with the bucket handle tear. I am five days post-op and have my first physical therapy appointment tomorrow. I think cuz my knee was in a locked position for a month (surgery was June 3), my recovery has been a little slower than others...I can't walk without crutches yet. I teach school and am missing the last two weeks. I know what my summer will be spent doing...physical therapy. Any advice for this 40-something?
Posted @ Sunday, June 08, 2014 5:06 PM by Sheree
ACL tear on May 5th and I am a 55-year-old mildly active female:) Surgery on May 28th. Doing remarkably well I think since it is only two weeks tomorrow. Have full extension of leg as well as 118 degrees flexion. Will see surgeon again tomorrow (15 days post op) to have stitches removed an hopefully be allowed some additional activites since the therapist tells me I am way ahead of most. Looking forward to getting on recumbent bike and driving again!!!
Posted @ Wednesday, June 11, 2014 9:54 AM by Alisa
I had ACL surgery too recovered quite well,not super hero style. I had very little swelling, didn't need any meds past Advil or ibuprofen ? Did exactly what I was required to do.Paced myself stayed patient with pt. I iced it used crutches and the brace. Confident at 3-4 months after, still wanted my brace, by then it was more about anxiety and getting used to the fact that I was actually ok. And 3years later I'm great. I try not to baby my knee, that was the hardest .
Posted @ Wednesday, June 18, 2014 4:42 PM by Dm
I tore my ACL, meniscus, PCL etc... skiing in February. Did PT right up until I had surgery in May, 2014. The surgery went well, but the block on my leg lasted 3 days and caused me to fall twice. It wasn't pretty. By day 4 on was using a walker with the brace. You need to wear the brace as much as the doctors and physical therapist tell you. I am now 5.5 weeks out, excelling at PT, driving again after 5 weeks and able to walk without the brace while at home. Very important to do the PT at home as well. Strength and getting those muscles rebuilt are the key to recovery. Good luck. 
PS. I only took the pain meds for one day. Aleve/Tylenol work well enough.
Posted @ Friday, June 27, 2014 11:15 AM by RMK
On 5/2/2014 I tore my ACL, ripped the MCL away from the bone 1/2 way, tore both medial and lateral menisci. Doing therapy to strenghten PRE surgery to prepare to be off for at least 3-4 weeks. I'll update what really happens.
Posted @ Sunday, July 06, 2014 5:39 PM by Scott
First injury was February of 2013 during a basketball game. Exact date of tear is undetermined as my knee injury recurred several times due to various activities. Still able to play basketball with a brace, though I don't go all out. I don't limp so much as walk with an almost unnoticabley different gait. Doctor said it was a tear with possibly a meniscal issue. Surgery is tomorrow and I was wondering if I could get any feedback.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 16, 2014 2:03 AM by Jenn
I am six weeks post-op and posted earlier about living for 22years without acl. The deciding factor was the bucket handle medial meniscus tear. Doc said I would continue to have unstable knee. Here is my advice...start taking fish oil, glucosamine, and chrondroitin supplements ASAP. Also, ice is your friend. The first two weeks is pretty bad, but by week four you will be doing ok. Listen to your body, your doc, and p.t, what kind of graft are you doing?
Posted @ Wednesday, July 16, 2014 1:45 PM by sheree
I have undergone ACL Reconstruction surgery on 08.08.2013, But still i am feeling pain in my knee, Still not able to use stairs comfertably.Some times i feel like my knee is not locking. Can any one suggest me for the further steps
Posted @ Tuesday, July 22, 2014 11:06 PM by Guru
Thanks for posting the time line it really helps a lot. Just had acl replacement surgery 6 days ago and have been in the worst pain I've ever been in. Even after 2 children, hernia surgery and all my teeth extracted. I'm hanging in there though and can't wait to get my way of life back.
Posted @ Tuesday, September 02, 2014 4:43 AM by Judy
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