The anterior cruciate ligament, often known as the ACL, is one of a pair of cruciate ligaments in the knee. It provides stabilization for the knee joint. Injuries to the ACL are often sports related. However, a torn, stretched, or ruptured ACL can be caused by repetitive physical stress or a sudden direction change. Women are more likely than men to experience an ACL tear.
ACL injuries generally cause swelling, stiffness, and pain. Sometimes a "popping" noise can be heard at the time the injury occurs. This often comes with intense pain and swelling within an hour. Since the ACL is the major knee stabilizer, any injury to it sometimes causes the knee to give out or buckle when a person tries to walk or change direction.
After tearing your ACL, the first goal should be decreasing pain and swelling. When at home, you can treat your torn ACL with PRICE, Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Schedule an examination with one of our physical therapists as soon as possible.
When you see one of our physical therapists for ACL pain, we will conduct a detailed, thorough evaluation. We will ask what you were doing when the injury occurred, if you felt pain or heard a pop when the injury occurred, if you experienced swelling within the first few hours following the injury, and if you felt the knee buckle or give out when you walked or changed directions. We will use a gentle hands-on approach to determine the likelihood of an ACL tear. We will run additional tests if needed to assess possible damage to other parts of the knee. Several factors play into a decision whether or not to have your ACL reconstructed. We can help you identify if surgery is needed.
If you don't have to have surgery, our physical therapists will work on restoring your muscle strength, agility and balance so you can return to the activities you love. We will use tailored exercises specific to your injury and modify activities to release stress on the knee. The primary problem in ACL reconstruction recovery is that people do not recover sufficient quadriceps strength. Our physical therapists use cutting-edge methods of testing quadriceps strength to ensure that athletes have as low of risk as possible of re-injuring their ACL.
If surgery is needed, prehabilitation prior to surgery is extremely important. Our goals before surgery are to help you minimize pain and swelling, restore knee range of motion, especially extension, and restore muscle activation. These should not be overlooked and will help in recovery.
After surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will most likely encourage you to see a physical therapist. Your treatment program will include:
Can ACL injuries be prevented? Improving balance and strength can lower ACL injury rates.
If you've torn your ACL, had ACL surgery, or suffered from some other type of pain, contact Rainey Pain & Performance. Our team of professionals is here to help you decrease your pain and increase your performance.
Additional resources we have available for athletes looking to prevent injury:
How can physical therapy help with an ACL injury?
If you’ve torn your ACL you should see a physical therapist. Your physical therapist will evaluate your condition and work with you to come up with a treatment plan.
After tearing your ACL, the first goal should be decreasing pain and swelling. When at home, you can treat your torn ACL with protection rest, ice, compression and elevation (PRICE.) This process can also require crutches or possibly a knee brace. Some people do not need surgery even with a torn ACL, some people do. Your physical therapist can help you determine the most appropriate path for you and help you decide.
Your physical therapist can help with pain, swelling, balance and getting back to as normal as possible. Physical therapy can help improve your knee’s range of motion as well as strengthen the muscles around it. You’ll also work to strengthen your quads, hamstrings and hips.
Balance exercises can be done with foam pads and other methods that challenge your balance. Focusing on regaining balance can help get you back to walking normally without crutches.
A torn ACL can prevent you from playing sports. If you are an active person hoping to get back into sports, talk with your physical therapist about plyometric training or jump training. This won’t be started until your knee is stable and there is no more pain.
The amount of time varies but can take about 3 months after surgery before you can begin this kind of physical training. At this point, you can consult with your physical therapist about running or plyometric training and can come up with a plan to get you back into sports.
Plyometric training can help you get back to high-impact sports. Plyometrics are great for rehabbing an injury. Plyometrics are great for training for sports that involve jumping such as volleyball, basketball or tennis. These jumping exercises can help you stretch and strengthen your muscles.
Your ACL rehab will take an average of 7 to 12 months. Rehabilitation can be delayed even longer if some steps are taking longer than average. Your physical therapist will be able to monitor your progress and help you find a plan that will work best for your needs.
We are aggressive in our testing to reduce the risk of having another ACL tear. There is no amount of time that is appropriate to return to your sport without appropriate testing. You need your strength, power, and balance tested rigorously.
If you’ve torn your ACL, had ACL surgery, or suffered from some other type of pain, contact Rainey Pain & Performance. Our team of professionals is here to help you decrease your pain and increase your performance. Schedule an appointment by calling (520) 459-1386.