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How to Prep for ACL Surgery

ACL surgery
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Torn ACL? You can speed up your recovery by following these simple pre-op tips.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) stabilizes the knee by connecting the femur (thigh bone) to the shin bone or tibia. Though ACL tears occur most often among athletes, anyone can injure their ACL with a sudden or awkward twist of the knee.

If you’ve torn your ACL, you’ll know it immediately if you hear a popping sound in the knee. You’ll also experience severe pain, swelling, and a feeling of instability in the joint. Full ACL tears don’t usually heal on their own, generally requiring surgical intervention. The most effective treatment is arthroscopic surgery that reconstructs the damaged ligament.

ACL surgery requires a few small incisions and is done on an outpatient basis, but it still requires some preparation. If you are set to undergo the procedure, you should know what you can do beforehand to speed up your recovery. Here are four tips to ensure a successful outcome.

1. Ask Questions

Talk to your surgeon about your diagnosis and what to expect during the surgery. Be sure to ask about any potential risks and complications. If possible, reach out to other patients who have undergone the same operation to get an idea of what to expect as you heal. 

Follow all pre-op instructions regarding when to stop eating and drinking and whether or not you should take your medication before surgery. Although you’ll be able to leave the hospital the same day you have your procedure, you’ll still be feeling the effects of anesthesia, so be sure to have someone drive you to and from the operation. Wear comfortable, loose clothing that will fit over the bandages.

2. Exercise Regularly

Improving your physical fitness prior to surgery increases your chances of a successful rehabilitation. A pre-op physical therapy program designed to build muscle strength, improve balance, and increase range of motion in the knee sets the stage for a positive recovery. However, any exercise plan before surgery should be supervised by a physical therapist and your doctor to prevent further injury. 

Exercises in the program might include:

  • Short Arc Quad: To build up the quadriceps muscles, place a ball underneath your knee while you lie straight on your back. Then straighten your leg as you keep the back of your knee pressed against the ball.
  • Prone Knee Bends: To strengthen your hamstrings, lie on your stomach and slowly bend your injured knee upward using your hamstring muscles at the back of your thigh.
  • Leg Stand: To improve your balance, stand on one leg and stay balanced for 30 to 60 seconds.

Always be sure to do your exercises slowly and stop any workout that causes severe pain.

3. Practice on Crutches

For several weeks after the surgery, you’ll need to take pressure off the injured knee by using crutches. To get used to your crutches, practice walking around with them before the operation. Do this for a few minutes each day in order to build up the muscles you’ll need to support yourself.

4. Prepare Your Home

Make it easier to move around while on crutches by removing any throw rugs or cords that could make you trip. Rearrange furniture to clear a pathway where you can walk safely. Since you can’t move around as freely as you did before the injury, it’s a good idea to arrange transportation to work, get extra help for housework, or have groceries delivered to your doorstep.

Your recovery from ACL surgery could last up to six months. During that time, the doctors and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists will guide you every step of the way — from pre-op through rehabilitation. We’ll address any concerns you have and provide support as you regain your health. Contact us today for an appointment.

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