If you have scheduled surgery to repair a torn ACL, it is imperative to have a thorough understanding of the recovery timeline and know what you need to do to remain on track during the healing process. In general, from the time you first undergo surgery through full rehabilitation, the recovery process can take up to six months or more.
While your doctor may provide certain recommendations depending on your specific circumstances, being proactive in your recovery can lead to faster healing, reduced pain, and a quicker return to your day-to-day activities.
The following is a rough timeline for ACL surgery recovery:
- First two weeks after surgery – Since surgery is a traumatic experience for your muscles, ligaments, and other tissues, your body will respond with inflammation, which is why this is the most crucial time during the recovery process due to your body’s vulnerability. During this time, you will use crutches because you will not be able to bear weight on the affected leg. You may be given exercises that need to be performed daily to support your healing.
- Two to six weeks after surgery – Your physical therapist will focus on helping you regain full range of motion during this time. You will you able to start bearing weight on both legs at this point in time. You may be able to drive during this time. However, activity will remain limited since your tissues are actively healing. You will probably wear a protective brace.
- Six weeks to three months after surgery – As your knee strengthens and the healing process continues, you will be able to perform more low-impact activities, including swimming, cycling, and rowing. At the end of this time period, you may be able to start light jogging.
- Three to six months after surgery – As your body is nearly ready to perform athletic activities, you will continue performing strengthening exercises to support the connective tissues in the knee joint.
- After six months – If the damaged tissue is completely healed, you can return to athletic activity. You may need to wear a supportive brace for one to two years after ACL surgery as a precaution.