If you tear your ACL, you will likely need surgery to repair this ligament. However, surgery is just the first step. After surgery, there will be a recovery period that lasts about 6 months in total, and a key element of that recovery period will be physical therapy. Physical therapy will help restore mobility, flexibility, and strength in your knee after an ACL tear and surgery. Here's a closer look at what that physical therapy will consist of.
Weight Bearing Practice
After ACL surgery, you will be sent home on crutches and with instructions not to walk on the affected leg. After a couple of weeks, though, you will start attending physical therapy, and it will be through your physical therapist's instructions that you begin bearing weight on the leg again. You'll practice slowly adding weight back, a bit at a time. You'll also be given instructions as to how you can slowly increase weight bearing on the leg at home.
It's normal for your knee and surrounding muscles to tighten up post-surgery. This is part of the healing process, and it's also a side effect of sitting around and not using your leg for weeks on end. Your physical therapist will guide you through stretching exercises. They'll know how far to push you so that you get benefits but don't do any damage. This flexibility will be important for you to begin walking and eventually running again.
The ACL helps stabilize your knee, so after you injure it, you may feel pretty unstable, even after surgery. Your physical therapist will guide you through exercises that slowly restore your balance. You won't be standing on one leg the first day, but within a few sessions, this should be possible again.
After your first two or three weeks of physical therapy, the focus will be on strengthening your knee and the muscles surrounding it. This may start with basic exercises where you push your toes against the therapist's hands. Eventually, you'll start doing leg curls, exercises with resistance bands, and so forth. Even if you have experience with weight training and strengthening exercise in the past, it's essential to follow your physical therapist's plan in this case. They know what order you should strengthen the muscles in and how far you should push yourself to encourage healing without causing other injuries.
After an ACL tear, surgery is the first step. Physical therapy is the second step. Contact a physical therapist to learn more.