The ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament and is one of the most important ligaments in your knee. You use it for everything from walking to running, jumping, and pivoting. Without a strong and fully-functional ACL, you’ll be severely limited in moving about and your physical capabilities. ACL tears are more common knee injuries that people, especially athletes, suffer from.
If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of tearing your ACL and need surgery to fix it, there are some helpful things to know in preparing for it. This article will discuss seven of the most helpful tips to prepare for ACL surgery and answer some common pre and post-surgery questions that people have.
7 helpful tips to prepare for ACL surgery and what to expect afterward
Here’s a helpful list of how to best prepare for ACL surgery and your new life afterward.
- #1. Make sure to ask for ACL surgery recovery time off work.
ACL surgery is a complicated procedure, and you’ll need time to recover from it. Typically, two to three weeks of rest is needed before you’re able to move around without the help of crutches and walkers. If you have a physical job where you’ll be spending most of your time on your feet, you might need one to two months of time off. The last thing you want to do is rush back after surgery too fast and reinjure yourself.
- #2. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol that you consume.
You should limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume anyway, but it’s extra important before ACL surgery. You’ll likely be asked to completely cut them off for at least a week or two leading up to surgery. This will improve your surgical procedure and post-surgery recovery.
- #3. Strengthen and stretch the areas around the ACL.
You mustn’t do strengthening or stretching exercises on a damaged ACL without the instruction of a physical therapist. Google and WebMD will show you information, but you risk damaging your knee even further without proper instruction. However, once you get approved stretches and exercises from your physical therapist, you should do them. As part of your recovery, you’ll have to do these stretches and exercises anyway, so getting a head start on them is a great idea.
- #4. Take nutritional supplements to increase your post-surgery recovery time.
Another great way to prep for your ACL surgery is to take vitamins and minerals to strengthen your knee and the areas around it. During your recovery, the areas around your ACL will need to pick up the slack, and doing anything to strengthen these areas and make them healthier is vital. Vitamin C and zinc, along with a healthy diet at least two weeks to a month leading up to your surgery, will greatly benefit your recovery time.
- #5. Go over your full surgery and treatment plan with your doctor.
This is one of the most important steps in your surgery preparation. Your doctor will go over what to expect during the procedure and the recovery process. Make sure that your surgeon and physical therapist know what your recovery goals are and what your living situation is like at home. Your medical team will ensure that all your questions are answered and that you have everything you need for recovery. Your surgeon will also go over the details of the surgery and what the procedure will entail. There’s no such thing as a bad question when it comes to asking about your surgery and recovery details. Asking questions will also help you know what not to do after ACL surgery.
- #6. Make necessary preparations within your home to make life easier after surgery.
You’ll be severely limited in your mobility and have to rely on crutches to move around for the first couple of weeks after surgery. Make sure that you move obstacles out of often traveled paths and have your furniture arranged the way you need it. Also, make sure that you have friends, relatives, and in-home nurses lined up to help you out if necessary.
- #7. Know what your limitations will be after surgery.
Knowing my limitations is one of the biggest things I wish I knew before ACL surgery. This is one of the most-used phrases by people who don’t ask enough questions before going under the knife. If you know your limitations are going into surgery, you’ll know how to best protect yourself after surgery.
Only by asking questions and getting advice from others who’ve had ACL surgery can you fully know what your limitations will be after surgery. Knowing these are the best way to keep from getting hurt or over-working your weakened knee.
FAQs about ACL surgery
Is walking too much after ACL surgery a bad thing?
Walking too much after ACL surgery is a bad thing. Your physical therapist will explain how much walking is ok and it’s important that you don’t overdo it.
How to sleep after ACL surgery?
This is a great question because it’s possible to retear your ACL in your sleep. The best way to sleep after ACL surgery is with your knee raised but not bent. It might be necessary to place a pillow or blanket under your foot so that only that part of your leg is elevated.
When can I walk after ACL surgery?
It’s important to start walking within a day or two after ACL surgery, but only a little. Walking for a minute or two can help reduce swelling, but you shouldn’t walk any more than that. After two weeks, you can start walking around unassisted without crutches for short periods of time. It will be 10 to 12 weeks before you can resume things like jogging, running, or even brisk walking.
What should I expect for life after ACL surgery?
You should expect to recover slowly and reduce your activity to a minimum. You’ll be mostly bedridden for the first week or two, so it’s important to have a support system in place to help you however you need it.
How long is the ACL surgery recovery time?
The total recovery time for ACL surgery is 6 to 12 months before you can get back to life as normal. At a minimum, you shouldn’t try to do any excessive walking or heavy lifting for 10 to 12 weeks, and you should take it extremely slow when you do.