Not everyone who tears their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) requires surgery to repair it.

Your decision will depend on the extent of the tear, how stable your knee feels, your lifestyle and the sports and hobbies you normally take part in.

For example, if you have fully ruptured your ACL and you normally participate in a sport which requires lots of sudden movements, like football or squash, then it’s more likely that you will require a surgery.

If you do opt to have surgery, you’ll be given post-operative instructions for your rehabilitation from your consultant which will be specific to you, so please do follow this advice even if it differs slightly from our recommendations.

Tips for recovery in the first few weeks following ACL surgery

Take your painkillers as prescribed – the first few weeks following your surgery are a critical time for regaining knee movement and strengthening your muscles. Your process will be much slower if you aren’t able to move very well because of pain.

Apply regular ice packs – a packet of frozen peas or a gel pack are ideal. Wrap your ice pack in a in a wet towel towel and place it on your knee for about 15 minutes. If you notice your skin has gone numb during this time then remove the ice pack straight away to prevent a burn. This can be repeated as often as you like to help relieve pain and also reduce excessive swelling.

Use your crutches – you are likely to be given elbow crutches prior to leaving hospital to help with your walking. Don’t be in a rush to abandon them too quickly… it’s better to be able to walk with a normal pattern of movement using your crutches for support then limp without them. As your pain starts to reduce you can gradually progress onto one crutch (held in your opposite hand).

Pace yourself – your body will need time to rest and heal after your surgery, so if your has issued you with a knee brace to protect your graft, use it at the settings advised for the length of time they recommend                                          

ACL recovery exercises  – early stage

Knee press

Quads strengthening exercise

By the end of the first week you should aim to be able to straighten your knee fully. As often as possible sit on your bed or the floor and try to straighten your knee as far as possible, hold for 5 seconds then relax. Do not push through pain. Repeat 5-10 times

Knee bends

Knee bending exercise

You should be able to bend your knee to about 70 degrees by the end of the first week, gradually increasing this in subsequent weeks. Sit on the floor or your bed with a plastic bag under your foot. Slide your foot towards you, bending your knee as far as able without pushing through pain. Hold for 5 seconds then return. Repeat 5-10 times.


Quadriceps strengthening- straight leg raise

Straight leg raise exercise

Lie on your back of sit up supported with your legs out straight in front of you. Tighten your thigh muscles then lift your whole leg, keeping your knee stays straight. Hold for 5 -10 seconds the relax. Repeat 5-10 times.

Hip strengthening

Gluten strengthening exercise

 1. Lie on your good side with back to a wall. Bend your good leg underneath you and keep your operated leg straight. Place your heel on the wall behind you and slide it up the wall. Hold for 5-10 seconds the relax. Repeat 5-10 times.

Hip strengthening exercise

2. Lie on your front over a couple of pillows. Bend your knee as far as is comfortable and lift your leg slightly, without arching your lower back. Hold for 10 seconds then relax. Repeat 5-10 times.

The majority of people are able to get back to all their usual activities and sports over a period of 3–9 months. An experienced physiotherapist will be able to support your recovery from ACL surgery with a structured rehab programme focusing on mobility, balance, control, strength and sports specific drills to ensure the long term success of your surgery.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions at all,

The Physiofit Team!