ACL Surgery Recovery 101: Timeline & Tips

This article will be helpful if you’re scheduled for an ACL reconstruction. You will probably be thinking about “How long will I be out of my normal routine?” or “What should I expect during my rehabilitation?”

Your doctor can provide specific recommendations based on your unique situation, but in general, the following timeline may help you recover as quickly and safely as possible after an ACL surgery.

Initial Phase (First two weeks after surgery)

This is the most critical time after surgery. You need to start rehabilitation immediately regardless of your pain or swelling level. The aim is to activate your quadriceps and to mobilise your knee to prevent it from stiffening. It is important to have active full knee extension or your walking pattern will be affected. You should be given exercises that can be performed daily to support your recovery. During this time, you will not be able to bear weight on the affected leg, but you will be allowed to walk around with crutches.

Middle phase (Two weeks to three months after surgery)

You may begin to put weight through your affected leg, but activity may still be limited as your tissues are healing. The focus will be on helping you regain full range of motion, improving your quadriceps and hamstring strength and improving your balance. You may have to wear a protective knee brace to protect it from unnecessary movements because your knee is still vulnerable at this stage. During this time, you should be allowed to use one crutch to support yourself when you walk.

Late phase (Three months to six months after surgery)

You should be allowed to do low-impact activities such as cycling, swimming, and rowing. By this time, you should have achieved full knee range of motion and your quadriceps strength should be 70% of your unaffected leg. Depending on your progress, you should be walking unsupported and your rehabilitation should focus on your hamstring and quadriceps strength. Agility, jumping and sport specific training should also be added during this time.

As mentioned before, this is a general recommendation. Please speak to us if you’re interested to know how we can help you during this journey.