first week after an ACL reconstruction is usually the worst. Not only
did you just have surgery, but you have lots of questions and worries.
Your knee is painful, swollen, bruised, and unresponsive.
Your body feels miserable from the anesthesia, and you can't sleep at night. It hurts to move, and those exercises are really a pain.
It sounds awful, but there are a few things you can do in the first week, or the first few days before you start rehab that can greatly increase the speed of your recovery, and reduce your pain and swelling.
see all of my ACL reconstruction patients prior to their surgery. We
pre-operative visit in which I instruct them in their exercises for
home, fit them with crutches, provide an ice compression wrap, and
answer any questions they have about the surgery, rehab, and recovery.
I tell all of my patients that the single most important thing after surgery is to maintain their knee extension.
Why do I tell them this?
Full knee extension is the key to many facets of ACL rehabilitation. Your quadricep muscles cannot fully contract if you cannot extend your knee. You cannot walk normally if you cannot extend your knee. Your muscles cannot relax and recover if you cannot extend your knee.
The problem is that laying with your knee extended and propped up on a pillow at the ankle is not comfortable. It hurts.
of motion is slow to return after ACL reconstruction. And the first
time you try to bend your knee, it will feel like it is going to
I promise, it won't.
You have to keep bending it, despite the discomfort.
Patients always ask "Will it hurt the new ACL if I bend it too mcuh?" The answer is no. You cannot cause damage to your new ACL by bending your knee.
use of ice and compression
is essential to improving your recovery time in the frst week after an
ACL reconstruction. The more you can ice your knee, the lower your pain
levels, and the less swelling. After the first couple of days, you will
actually enjoy icing. It will feel so good.
Swelling is the enemy during acl reconstruction rehab. It slows everything down, and causes much of the pain associated with this surgery. So everythng you can do to reduce it is going to get you better faster.
after an ACL reconstruction can be frustrating or it can be a time when
you get a head start on your recovery. Formal rehab does not usually
start for at least 3-4 days, sometimes a week after surgery. This time
is a great chance to start working on your recovery by using the tips
Your knee will thank you, your clinician will thank you, and you will feel better faster.