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What is a Typical ACL Recovery Timeline After Surgery?

27 August, 2015

Recovering from ACL Surgery by Kelly Hansen, Game Ready

Most people, especially athletes, want to get back on their feet as soon as possible after ACL surgery. One of the most commonly asked questions after surgery is how long it will take to recover. Although it varies from person to person, the average recovery time is about nine months to one year.

Recovering from ACL Surgery

For many people the recovery timeline includes the following phases:

  • 1-2 days - Immediately after surgery your body will be focused on recovering from the trauma of  the procedure.
  • One week - Many people are mobile within one week, typically with crutches or other assistive devices.
  • Two weeks - If you follow the recommendations of your doctor and physical therapist, you may be able to walk without crutches while wearing a supportive brace.
  • Three weeks - As your range of motion improves, you might be able to manage some stairs and be able to flex your knee for long enough to drive for brief periods of time.
  • Two months - If you continue regular strength and flexibility training, you should be able to introduce light, low-impact exercise into your routine.
  • Three months - At this stage in your recovery you could be close to your pre-surgery strength level, but that does not mean that you have fully recovered.
  • Nine to twelve months - If you have continued rehabilitation exercises and avoided activities that could damage your knee again, you may be fully recovered after nine months. Individuals who have not committed to a regular rehab schedule may take up to twelve months to fully recover from ACL surgery.

Factors that Influence ACL Surgery Recovery Time

The average recovery times are just a rough indicator of what you can expect, but you can take certain steps to speed up the healing process and accelerate your recovery. Several factors play a role in ACL surgery recovery time:

  • Inflammation - In the weeks following ACL surgery, your body will exhibit a natural inflammatory response. This will result in pain, swelling, oedema, and other uncomfortable symptoms that can impact your recovery. Keeping your leg elevated, getting plenty of rest, and cold compression therapy are the keys to reducing inflammation and allowing the healing process to run its course more quickly.
  • Activity - Finding the right balance between rest and activity plays a role in how fast you will recover from ACL surgery. In the weeks after surgery, it is important to get enough rest so that your body can heal more quickly. The more energy you expend on daily activities, the less your body will have to devote to repairing itself. After the initial healing phase, you will want to introduce gentle activities that will help you strengthen the muscles around your knee and keep the ligaments and other connective tissues flexible. Working with a physical therapist is the best way to ensure that you strike the right balance.
  • Nutrition - Your body needs nutrients to repair itself, and the healthier you eat, the faster you will recover. Focus on maintaining a balanced diet so your body has what it needs to heal.

If you want to integrate cold compression therapy into your ACL surgery recovery, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about Game Ready. You can find a provider near you or rent your own system while you recover. 

Have you had ACL surgery? How long did your recovery take?
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