ACL Surgery: Code to Recovery

By Martha Michael

Like a secret military exercise, an ACL tear in one of your knees can occur under the radar, an injury you didn’t know you had. Once treated, if it’s acute enough to require surgery, you need a strategy for getting back on your feet.

Sure, the operation performed by doctors is important, but of equal importance is your part in the process: “Operation Recovery.”

The Offensive

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website explains that a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) happens with some frequency, especially to athletes. The ACL is the attachment between the shinbone and the thigh bone. If doctors decide reconstruction is necessary, the process involves surgery, in which they build a new ligament from a graft, which they obtain from the patient or a donor.


The surgery lasts about 90 minutes, says the OSU site, and patients can actually head home the same day. Your thighs may be numb for a few days, so you’ll likely be unable to walk without help. However, doctors at Wexner instruct patients to put weight on the leg that received surgery right away and begin exercises as soon as possible.

“Do 200 leg raises each day. Do not put a pillow under the knee, but use a towel roll under your heel,” the site instructs. “Work on both getting your leg straight and bending your knee to 90 degrees.”

The First 48

A cryocuff is suggested for two days following surgery, say experts at OSU. But don’t set it aside – you’ll want to continue use four times a day for 20 minutes each. Sometimes a patient experiences blistering or redness, in which case he or she should cease using the cold compress until consulting a medical professional. 

The area of the incision has to be kept clean, especially for the first few days. You’ll get the dressing removed after 72 hours and leave Steri-Strips on the incision. An Ace bandage is wrapped around the knee over the bandages.

You need to stay dry for a few days also, therefore you’re limited to sponge baths. After about 72 hours, take a shower, but keep the area as dry as possible. Don’t bathe or swim in a pool until a full day following the removal of your stitches.

Rehab Protocol

A consultation with your chiropractor is a good move at this point, so you can get started on some treatment for recovery. An affront like an ACL tear doesn’t require a major offensive, but an individualized strategy, which you can get from a practitioner at The Joint.

An article on the website for the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Health Professions says there are many goals for post ACL treatment, including:

  • Reduce swelling
  • Increase active range of motion
  • Full weight bearing without assistance

Through the application of targeted motion by your chiropractor, and ongoing chiropractic maintenance, you can set your sights on improved nerve communication and an eventual return to free range of motion. All you need is to sit down with your practitioner to devise a campaign of tactics like these in order to win the day.