The timeline for full recovery from an ACL operation is 9 months.(1) That is 9 months until no restrictions on activity. However, this does not mean that one is under complete rest for those 9 months, quite the opposite! Indeed, post op ACL is fully weight bearing. There is no brace or cast. There are crutches but this is for stabilisation over the first 1-2 weeks and patients are encouraged to support their own weight as much as possible, as soon as possible. Likewise, rehab through physio begins from the moment one leaves the theatre and recovers from the general anaesthetic. Over the course of the next 9 months, or 36 weeks, I hope to record each week’s recovery goals and progress; lots of us have knee issues and perhaps this diary of recovery can be a useful perspective.
- Static exercises for quads, hamstrings and glutes
- Prone stretches – allowing the back of the knee to hang unsupported for 20 minutes to encourage straightening
- ‘Mini workout’ – 30-50 reps each of V-sits, one-leg press-ups, one-leg tricep dips off the bench and Pilates clams every day to keep core and upper body mobile while taking it easy in the first week
- Free of crutches (indoors) after 24hrs; still used as ‘stabilisers’ outdoors to avoid being knocked over
- Compression bandage off after 48hrs and dressing changed
- Walked upstairs normally after 3 days; didn’t manage normal down stairs walking this week – bending and supporting weight too much
- Full extension after 3 days, though ability to press back of knee to floor much reduced (difficult to fire quads with swelling)
- Slept through night without waking due dull ache in knee and need for painkillers after 6 days
- Stitches out after 7 days
- Free of crutches (outdoors) after 7 days
- First meeting with Physio on Monday
Every ACL op and recovery will be particular to the person. The thoughts and experiences recalled in this series of posts is in no way intended as medical advice or as a replacement for seeking medical attention for any injury. This information is presented merely as a record of one person’s experience with ACL operation and recovery.
(1) My experience is based on the care and approaches currently in use in the NHS; it has become apparent that other ACL-recoverers may have different timelines based on their geographical locations. There’s many ways to crack a nut and this telling is founded on the NHS-experience.