Many people who suffer from a torn ACL have a few weeks between the time the injury occurs and the day surgery is scheduled. This delay is because you need time for the swelling to go down before the procedure is performed. During this time, you might need to use crutches and/or a knee brace to support the knee joint, prevent further injury, and avoid pain and discomfort.
Although you might be eager to have surgery and get the healing process started, there are advantages to having some time to get ready for your ACL surgery recovery. The more you can prepare in advance, the more smoothly the weeks after surgery may go. Try these tips to help make the most of your time during this transition phase.
Get Your Gear
Talk to your doctor about what types of assistive devices they recommend for use after ACL surgery. This might include a combination of a walker, crutches, or a cane. Make sure the devices you get are properly sized and that you know how to use them. You can even practice with them around the house before surgery so you can move furniture or rearrange other items as needed.
Go for the Cold
After ACL surgery, you may experience a lot of pain and swelling in the knee joint. Be prepared with a cold therapy system that delivers consistent therapeutic cold and active compression. These systems target the involved area more effectively, are more comfortable, and are more convenient than ice packs and compression bandages. Just ask your doctor or physical therapist about renting a cold therapy system for home use. In fact, there is no reason to wait until after surgery—you may be able to use cryotherapy in the weeks before the procedure to help reduce the pain and swelling you’re already experiencing.
Go to Ground
If you live in a home with multiple levels, plan on camping out on the ground floor for at least a couple weeks. The more you can avoid going up and down stairs, the less risky your recovery may be. If you have the space, try moving a bed to the first floor. If possible, you may even consider renting a hospital bed. Gather all of the things you will need for the first few weeks after surgery—clothes, bedding, toiletries, etc.—so everything is handy when you need it.
Plump Your Pillows
You will probably need more pillows than usual while you recover from ACL surgery. You’ll want enough to put under your knee and lower leg to elevate the leg and support the joint. You may likely also want several pillows to help prop you up in bed so you can sit comfortably.
Feed Your Fridge
The last thing you want to do while recovering from ACL surgery is spend time on your feet trying to prepare meals. You need to try and rest as much as possible while your tissues heal themselves. Prepare meals ahead of your surgery and put them in the refrigerator or freezer for easy reheating during recovery. This preparatory step may also help you eat more well-balanced meals, which is an important step during recovery.
Check Your Clothes
Dressing during surgery recovery is not as easy as it normally is, especially if you can’t easily or safely bend your knee joint. This is a great time to wear loose-fitting pants or shorts, skirts, or dresses if you have them. Athletes might already have break-away shorts or pants, but if you don’t, this is a smart investment for the few weeks following ACL surgery. Be prepared with slip-on shoes, clogs, or sandals so you don’t have to tie your shoes.
Pre-Op Physical Therapy
In many cases, you may actually be able to start physical therapy before ACL surgery and safely maintain muscle mass with the help of a physical therapist. A physical therapist can assist you in maintaining strength of the muscles of the injured leg, and help you regain range of motion in the injured knee. This may help the post-surgery recovery process go more smoothly.
While you have some time on your hands, download and read The Game Ready Guide to Knee Surgery Recovery for more information about how you can return to your normal routine more quickly.