There is a fine balance of exercises to do after an ACL tear since you want to challenge yourself to improve but also do not want to cause further pain or injury. Our team of on-site physical therapists in our ORTHOKnox orthopedic clinics in Knoxville, Tennessee, can work with you to form a rehabilitation plan that will gradually improve your range of motion and strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee. We discuss some of the best exercises for our patients to do after an ACL tear below!
What are the goals of a physical therapy rehabilitation plan after ACL reconstruction surgery?
Your physical therapist will focus on and modify the following aspects according to your personal injury and rehabilitation goals. You will pursue these goals with your PT over a course of 3–6 months until you can successfully return to your sport, daily activities, and work. Return to full sport participation typically occurs between 6-12 months.
- Restore patient to prior level of function and stability
- Strengthen muscles surrounding the knee (quadriceps and hamstring) and entire leg and core
- Increase the patient’s range of motion
- Decrease patient’s risk for future injury
What are early exercises to do after ACL reconstruction surgery?
The main goal of physical therapy after your ACL reconstruction is to regain control of the muscles surrounding your knee, especially your quadriceps. Your physical therapist will show you stretches for your calves and hamstrings to assist in restoring the full extension of your knee, as well as recommend RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) in between exercising.
The following exercises will help strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings, which will improve the stability and overall function of your knee. Straight leg raises, quad sets, and heel slides can be started shortly after surgery as you work to regain your balance and strength. Standing on one leg, squats, and cardio may need to be started gradually.
Straight leg raises
Lie on your back and lift your straightened leg up about 1 foot into the air. Hold for 5 seconds. Start with 10 repetitions and progress to 100 a day.
Lie on your back and support your knee with a rolled-up towel. Tighten your quadricep muscles and hold for 5 seconds (may recommend 2 sets of 10 repetitions) multiple times a day. Quad sets help strengthen your muscles and improve your control of leg movements.
Start sitting and bend knee. When 90 degrees we typically transition to lying down and slide your heel toward your buttocks so that your knee is bent and your heel remains on the bed. Heel slides help improve your range of motion.
Exercises you will progress to:
Standing on one leg
Begin by standing on both feet and lift the uninjured leg. Hold for 10 seconds. This will help strengthen the calf in your injured leg.
With feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and lower your hips as if you were going to sit in a chair. Your physical therapist may start you with half squats before progressing to full squats. Squats help strengthen your lower body, including quadriceps and glutes, which are key to maintaining balance and movement.
As your gait normalizes, your physical therapist may also recommend incorporating cardio exercises, such as using the elliptical and swimming, to strengthen your muscles and improve your overall health.
Where do I go for treatment for an ACL tear in Knoxville, TN, and Athens, TN?
ORTHOKnox orthopedic clinics in Knoxville, TN, and Athens, TN, can treat your ACL tear with ACL reconstruction surgery and physical therapy before and after your surgery. With our on-site physical therapists, board-certified surgeon, and Orthopedic Urgent Care that is available without an appointment, ORTHOKnox has got you covered if you have a knee injury. For more information about how ORTHOKnox can treat your ACL tear, call (865) 251-3030, or fill out our easy-to-use online appointment request form. We look forward to hearing from you!