Recovering from ACL Surgery

Use these 11 Tips for the Best Outcome and Fastest Healing from ACL Surgery

physical therapist stretching patient's knee
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Recovery from ACL surgery takes time, but there are some actions you can take to make the process go as quickly as possible.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries of the knee are commonly treated with outpatient arthroscopic ACL surgery. In most cases, ACL surgery is scheduled far enough in advance to allow plenty of time to create both a pre-surgery and post-surgery treatment plan.

11 Tips for Recovering Faster from ACL Surgery

Some basic recommendations for recovering quickly from ACL surgery include the following. Patients who follow them tend to have a better surgical outcome and a faster recovery than patients who don't.

  1. Follow ACL Post-op Instructions: Immediately after ACL surgery, you will most likely receive specific instructions from your surgeon and then meet with a physical therapist to establish an ACL rehabilitation program. It's important to adhere to these recommendations and ask questions if you don't understand what you are asked to do.
  2. Go to Your Follow Up Appointments: It's important that your progress is monitored and your plan tweaked, if need be.
  3. Get a Referral to PT: Physical therapy is generally prescribed after ACL surgery as a matter of course. If you don't receive a referral to PT, ask your surgeon for one.
  4. Perform ACL Rehab Exercises: Your physical therapist will determine your rehab program based upon your personal limitations and set your exercise progression based upon your improvement. Again, for the best outcome, it's important to follow this program exactly.
  5. Get Proper Nutrition: Eating well after surgery can help your body heal faster. Recommended foods include lean protein (red meat, chicken or fish), dairy, and fresh citrus. Vegetables are nutrient-rich, so eat plenty of green leafy plants including spinach. Many nutritionists recommend stopping or at least limiting caffeine, alcohol and sodas.
  1. Get Enough Sleep: While you sleep, your body repairs tissues and promotes healing, so be sure to get at least eight hours of quality sleep each night.
  2. Take Medication As Prescribed: You most likely will be on some pain medication after your surgery. Talk to your doctor about how and when to take new medications, and if you should add multivitamins or other supplements to your daily rehab plan. If you stopped medications before your surgery, ask how and when to start taking them again.
  3. Inform Your Surgeon of Changes in Your Recovery: If your pain suddenly increases, you develop a fever or other symptoms of infection, it's important to let your doctor know right away.
  4. Use Relaxation and Imagery Techniques: Use relaxation exercises or podcasts to maintain a confident and relaxed state of mind and reduce any anxiety you may have about recovering from your surgery.
  5. Practice Injury Coping Strategies: There are a variety of ways to cope with an injury. These involve your attitude as well as your actions. Read through these tips to learn other coping strategies you may find helpful.
  1. Ask for Help: After surgery, you will be less mobile and will probably need additional help with daily activities. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your friends and family.
View Article Sources
  • ACL Injury Guide. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Nov. 15, 2007
  • Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation, ACL Injury Prevention Project