ACL Surgery Recovery
When you leave the hospital to continue recovering from ACL surgery, you will be given specific discharge instructions with regard to driving, activity level, medication, and any further restrictions necessary. Your healthcare providers will also advise you of any symptoms that require immediate medical attention. Because knee pain is normal, you will also be given medication.
You should expect to have your knee wrapped and possibly be in a brace that helps keep your leg straight. This brace is only used during walking. Your thigh muscles will be weak after the surgery, and the brace will protect your knee from suddenly bending. This is usually worn for two to three weeks after ACL surgery.
You may use crutches to help with walking, and these may be put aside as soon as you are comfortable bearing weight on your leg without them. The Ace wrap can be removed in two to three days, but most doctors prefer to remove it themselves on your first post-op visit.
You should expect to see your doctor for your first follow-up visit 7 to 10 days after the ACL surgery. Stitches are removed at that time, and an exercise program will be established. Your doctor may have you begin range-of-motion exercises prior to your first visit.
Your doctor will send you to see a physical therapist to work on range-of-motion and strengthening exercises after your ACL reconstruction. Physical therapy can last from three to six months, and you can expect at least six months to possibly up to a year to regain the full function of your knee. Your doctor and therapist will determine the specific exercises and schedule. Usually, the first six weeks are focused on regaining the range of motion. This is followed by a strict exercise program to regain your strength.
The graft must both heal into place and become part of the knee. Therefore, you will need to be careful not to do too much activity too early, as this may cause the knee to get inflamed, reinjured, or may increase the risk of a graft failure.