Many athletes experience knee swelling at some point, and it’s not always clear why it happens. The causes of this condition—also known as effusion, or water on the knee—can vary. Some of the possible reasons for a swollen knee include:Read More >
A torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a common sports injury that often results in surgical repair because, as one of the four ligaments found in the knee, it is so important for stabilization in the joint. ACL sprains or tears can occur with physical impact, when quickly pivoting, or when landing incorrectly from a jump.Read More >
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:
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:
Although the recovery path varies for every individual, most people experience that same phases as they heal.
Typical MCL Surgery Recovery Timeline
- Phase One - In the first six weeks after MCL surgery, the healing process will rapidly progress. The immediate inflammation after surgery can be controlled with rest, elevation, and cold compression therapy to help manage pain and swelling. As the inflammation subsides, rehabilitation begins to help restore the normal function of the joint. The main focus during these initial weeks is to restore range of motion, build up to weight-bearing activities, and increase strength and flexibility without impacting the surgical repair.
- Phase Two - Six to twelve weeks after surgery, most patients are able to advance rehabilitation to include functional training and sports-specific conditioning exercises. During this time your physical therapist will gradually increase both the duration and the intensity of your rehabilitation sessions to help you safely build muscle and increase flexibility.
- Phase Three - This is when you are ready to return to activity. The length of time it takes to achieve full recovery depends on several factors, including:
- How well your body healed during the first weeks after surgery
- Your physical condition before surgery
- The rehabilitation process during the second phase of recovery
The average recovery time for MCL surgery is about six months, but the full range is from twelve weeks to twelve months at each end of the spectrum.
The early stages of MCL surgery recovery influence the entire healing process. Giving your body the opportunity to heal quickly and thoroughly is the best way to return to activity safely. Using Game Ready's cold compression therapy system after MCL surgery will help you heal more quickly, feel more comfortable, and get back on your feet faster.
Our patented system is proven to be more effective than ice alone, which is why both doctors and athletes rely on Game Ready during MCL surgery recovery. Look for a provider near you if you want to integrate Game Ready into your MCL surgery recovery strategy.
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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.
Cold therapy, or cryotherapy, is a proven method for reducing pain, swelling, and edema. You have probably applied ice packs after a sports injury or other trauma, but do you know why you do this?
How Cryotherapy Works in the BodyStated simply, cryotherapy is the application of cold to an injury. It provides a therapeutic effect for three reasons:
- Impact on the circulatory system - When you apply cold to your knee after MCL surgery, your blood vessels constrict, or get more narrow. This reduces blood flow, which causes the body to respond by increasing the size of the blood vessels, bringing a rush of fresh blood to the area. This process continues throughout the application of cold, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the healing tissue and flushing cellular waste away.
- Impact on cellular metabolism - The cells in your body perform a variety of functions, all of which are important. Each cell has a life cycle in which it is created, uses energy to do its designated work, and then dies. The rate at which a cell consumes energy is its metabolism. The application of cold slows down cellular metabolism so that less energy is required. This contributes to faster healing after MCL surgery because your body can maximize energy use for tissue repair.
- Impact on the neurological system - You feel pain as a result of nerve fiber activity, which is slowed down with the application of cold. Reducing pain throughout the recovery process can help you heal faster and potentially reduce the amount of medication you might need.
Why Cold Compression Therapy Works Better than Ice PacksIn its simplest form, cryotherapy can be applied with ice packs. However, with modern technology there is a better way. The main disadvantage of ice packs is that they constantly absorb heat from your body, which causes the ice temperature to gradually increase, reducing its therapeutic effect over time.
Game Ready has developed a system that allows you to apply consistent cold temperatures around the entire knee joint for the duration of the therapy session. Cold water circulates through a loop system that includes an ice reservoir, so the temperature remains constant. At the same time, pneumatic compression creates a pumping effect that helps improve the flow of blood and other fluids. This system provides two important benefits when it comes to cryotherapy:
- The effects of therapeutic cold lasts longer
- The cold is able to penetrate deeper
This means that the deeper tissues in your knee joint benefit from cryotherapy after MCL surgery and each session has a longer lasting impact than ice packs alone.
If you are interested in learning more about how Game Ready can help speed up your MCL surgery recovery, locate a provider near you.
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After MCL surgery, swelling can last for weeks if you do nothing to address it. However, if you follow a few important guidelines, you can limit the amount of pain and swelling you will experience to a much shorter period of time.
Controlling Swelling After MCL SurgeryLike any injury, the recommended course of action includes RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) therapy. With modern technology, you can take this traditional approach a step further to achieve even faster results.
- Rest - When your body is healing it needs more energy than usual, which is why it is so important to get ample rest during MCL surgery recovery. Use your affected leg as little as possible, especially in the first few days after surgery as this is when the most significant repairs are occurring in the body.
- Ice - Cryotherapy is a proven technique for reducing pain and swelling. However, ice therapy alone has its limitations because your body warms the ice and the benefits quickly diminish over time. Using a system that provides consistent therapeutic cold is more effective because the cold can penetrate deeper and last longer.
- Compression - Swelling often comes with edema, or the buildup of excess fluid in the injured area. Edema can be uncomfortable and contributes to the limited range of motion you are likely to experience after MCL surgery. Using a system that provides active compression will help remove edema and reduce overall swelling. It also helps the body heal faster by pumping oxygen-rich blood to your damaged tissues so they can get the nutrients they need to repair themselves.
- Elevation - It may seem simple, but it works. Elevating your leg after surgery helps prevent excess swelling, especially when combined with rest and active cold compression therapy.
If you are ready to take your MCL surgery recovery to the next level, learn more about Game Ready and how active cold compression therapy can help you reduce pain and swelling. Our patented system is designed to provide consistent cold for the duration of the therapy session, and a natural pumping effect that keeps blood and other fluids flowing. Contact us today to learn more, or talk to your doctor about how Game Ready can help speed up your MCL surgery recovery.
What do you usually do to help reduce swelling?