Getting Active Again After an ACL Injury

An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a common sports injury. But, you don’t have to be an athlete to have it happen to you. 

Any movement that makes you stop and change directions quickly can tweak your knee. Jumping, running, or simply overextending your knee can do it, too. Even car crashes or other accidents that result in a blow to your knee can cause an ACL injury. Regardless of the cause, the first question is always the same: How can I get rid of the pain and get active again?

At One Oak Medical, we have an entire team dedicated to doing just that. When it comes to ACL injuries, Drs. Faisal Mahmood and Ahmad Badri are our go-to orthopedic surgeons. They specialize in treating ACL injuries with the most advanced, minimally invasive techniques available so you can get back to your normal activities as soon as possible.

A quick anatomy lesson

The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be in your own treatment and recovery.

Your knee joint is where your thigh bone (femur), your shin bone (tibia), and your kneecap (patella) come together. Strong fibrous tissues, called ligaments, connect your bones and keep your leg and body mobile. 

You have four ligaments in your knee: two that keep it stable from side to side, and two that keep it stable from front to back. Your anterior cruciate ligament is the one that keeps your tibia from slipping forward in front of your femur. When that overstretches or tears, you’ll experience varying degrees of pain and instability.

Recovering from an ACL injury

The healing process that follows an ACL injury depends on the severity of the injury, your age, your activity level, and your overall health. If you've only slightly overstretched it, your treatment will be different than if you've completely torn it. An ACL that's torn into two pieces will not repair itself without surgery.

Our doctors will study your injury to determine what treatment is needed.

ACL sprains

A grade 1 sprain is when you’ve slightly stretched the ligament, but your joint is still relatively stable. A grade 2 sprain is a more severe stretch or a partial tear. Your ligament has become very lax and loose, and your stability is somewhat compromised. Here’s the good news: Grade 1 and 2 sprains do not need surgery.

In these cases, treatment starts with keeping the swelling down with the RICE approach (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen can be helpful. Your doctor might also recommend wearing a brace and using crutches to keep the weight off your knee for a while. 

Once the inflammation is under control and you’ve allowed the tissues to get a good start on the healing process, you can begin physical therapy. Physical therapy targets the specific muscles needed to support your injury, so you can heal.

ACL surgery

If an X-ray or MRI reveals that you’ve torn your ACL completely, you’ll likely need surgery to repair it. If so, you’re in great hands with Drs. Mahmood and Badri. Our doctors are known for their skillful surgical technique called arthroscopy. This technique ensures your incisions remain small, which reduces the risk of damage to the surrounding tissue. 

During surgery, our team will graft some tendon tissue from your knee, quadricep, or hamstring to repair your torn ACL. This grafted tissue forms a scaffold that your ACL ligament can grab onto and bond with.

Getting active again after your ACL surgery takes patience and strict adherence to our team’s post-operative instructions. The speed and success of your rehabilitation are based on several factors, including your:

You'll typically go through three main phases of rehab after your ACL surgery:

It's important you listen to your body and don't push your recovery to the point of more injury. Keep in mind that slow and steady will get you to your goal faster than pushing your limits.

ACL injuries are painful and serious. You need time and determination to heal properly. You also need skilled medical professionals before, during, and after your surgery for the best chance at regaining full function. 

If you’ve injured your ACL, contact our team today. We’ll help you get back on your feet!

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