From outpatient arthroscopic ACL repair to full knee replacement, there are several types of knee surgeries that cover a range of severity and complexity. In some cases a patient might be home in the same day, and in others they might stay in the hospital for several days. However, regardless of the type of knee surgery, preparation for the recovery process is largely the same.
Recovering from any surgical procedure can be challenging both mentally and physically, but if you are prepared with the right information about how to actively participate in the healing process, you can recover more quickly. In addition to taking proactive steps, an important part of a fast recovery is knowing what not to do.
Professional athletes typically suffer more injuries than the average person, primarily because they subject their bodies to more rigorous activities. Fortunately, they are often able to return to the field after recovering from the injury or a related surgery. Sports medicine has come a long way over the years and trainers are now able to get athletes back in the game faster than ever before. They use many of the same recovery techniques that are available to everybody else, but they also employ a few tricks to help accelerate healing.
Recovering from ACL surgery can be challenging, especially for people who are used to being active. Staying off your feet, getting ample rest, and actively participating in physical therapy may sound like simple tasks, but when you actually have to do it for weeks or months, you might find your commitment slipping.
The muscles and joints in your lower extremities are important for daily living, but many people take this for granted until they experience pain or swelling. A swollen knee is not only uncomfortable, it can also prevent you from going up and down stairs and limit your desire or ability to walk. This can be very disruptive to daily life and should be addressed as soon as possible to help prevent further damage and allow you to quickly get back to normal. Knee swelling can be caused by a range of factors including:
A torn ACL is a painful and inconvenient injury, especially for athletes. Fortunately, ACL surgery makes it possible to repair the damaged tissue, usually with a graft from another ligament in your own body. Arthroscopic surgery leaves few external scars, but the muscles, ligaments, and other tissues in the knee joint need time to recover fully from both the injury and the surgery.
Following a few tips during ACL surgery recovery can help you heal faster and get back on your feet more quickly.
Seven Tips for ACL Surgery Recovery
- Avoid infection - Keep the surgical incisions clean and dry and monitor for fever. If you have a persistent fever after surgery, let your doctor know right away.
- Get plenty of rest - The body needs energy to heal, especially after surgery or an injury. Make sure that you get enough quality sleep, and while you're awake don't exert yourself too much, especially in the first week.
- Eat well - A nutritious diet rich with healthy foods will help ensure that essential nutrients will be available for your healing tissues.
- Elevate your leg - In the first few days after surgery, elevating your leg will help keep swelling down.
- Use ice and compression - Cryotherapy helps reduce inflammation and pain, while compression helps remove edema and also contributes to inflammation control. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if they have equipment available during your ACL surgery recovery. Specialized wraps that provide active cold and compression therapy are more effective than ice packs and compression bandages.
- Manage your pain - Cold and compression will help reduce pain after surgery, possibly even eliminating the need for pain control medications. However, if you do still have pain, work with your doctor to develop a pain management strategy that works for you.
- Do physical therapy - As your ACL heals you will need to rehabilitate it and the surrounding tissues. Your physical therapist will likely recommend exercises like ankle flexion, gentle knee bends, and other activities that will help strengthen and stretch the muscles around your knee. It is important to follow your therapist's instructions closely, which includes not overdoing it too soon.
All of these tips will help you speed up ACL surgery recovery, especially the use of active cold compression therapy. Before you have surgery, ask your doctor about the Game Ready active cold compression system to help you reduce pain, inflammation, and edema.
The system comes with an adjustable knee wrap that is designed to conform to your body. The wrap has a dual-chamber system that allows cold water and air to consistently circulate at the same time. This simultaneous application of cold and compression is proven to be more effective than ice packs alone. If you want to learn more, get in touch with us today.
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Recovering from ACL SurgeryFor many people the recovery timeline includes the following phases:
- 1-2 days - Immediately after surgery your body will be focused on recovering from the trauma of the procedure.
- One week - Many people are mobile within one week, typically with crutches or other assistive devices.
- Two weeks - If you follow the recommendations of your doctor and physical therapist, you may be able to walk without crutches while wearing a supportive brace.
- Three weeks - As your range of motion improves, you might be able to manage some stairs and be able to flex your knee for long enough to drive for brief periods of time.
- Two months - If you continue regular strength and flexibility training, you should be able to introduce light, low-impact exercise into your routine.
- Three months - At this stage in your recovery you could be close to your pre-surgery strength level, but that does not mean that you have fully recovered.
- Nine to twelve months - If you have continued rehabilitation exercises and avoided activities that could damage your knee again, you may be fully recovered after nine months. Individuals who have not committed to a regular rehab schedule may take up to twelve months to fully recover from ACL surgery.
Factors that Influence ACL Surgery Recovery Time
The average recovery times are just a rough indicator of what you can expect, but you can take certain steps to speed up the healing process and accelerate your recovery. Several factors play a role in ACL surgery recovery time:
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.