What is a Typical ACL Recovery Timeline After Surgery?

By Kelly Hansen | May 22, 2014
Most people, especially athletes, want to get back on their feet as soon as possible after ACL surgery. One of the most commonly asked questions after surgery is how long it will take to recover. Although it varies from person to person, the average recovery time is about nine months to one year.

Recovering from ACL Surgery

For 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:

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Is Swelling After ACL Surgery Common?

By Kelly Hansen | Mar 20, 2014
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:
  1. Pain
  2. Heat
  3. Redness
  4. Swelling
  5. 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.

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How Long Does ACL Surgery Recovery Take?

By Kelly Hansen | Jan 09, 2014
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.
 
Discover the quickest way to recover from your ACL injury with the help of this  guide.
 
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.
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How Does Cryotherapy Improve ACL Surgery Recovery?

By Kelly Hansen | Dec 19, 2013
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.

Consistent Cold

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.

Active Compression

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 near you.

Have you tried cryotherapy for other injuries?

Cost of Cryotherapy
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How to Reduce Swelling in Knees After Exercising Your ACL or MCL

By Kelly Hansen | Nov 27, 2013

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.

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ACL Surgery Pain Timeline: Steps to Take to Recover with Minimal Pain

By Kelly Hansen | Oct 24, 2013
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.
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What is the Quickest Way to Recover from ACL Surgery?

By Kelly Hansen | Sep 19, 2013
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.
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5 Stages to Recover from ACL Surgery

By Kelly Hansen | Sep 02, 2013
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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Weeks 3 through 6 - As the swelling starts to subside, your physical therapist will introduce more rigorous strength training and balancing exercises.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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Recover from ACL Surgery Faster with Cryotherapy

By Kelly Hansen | Aug 26, 2013
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

Cryotherapy, 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.

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What You Shouldn't Do During ACL Surgery Recovery

By Kelly Hansen | Jun 24, 2013

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.

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