Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Treatment with Exercise

A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) has been identified as one of the most debilitating musculoskeletal injuries to the knee and occurs most often to individuals who are into sports such as basketball, football, tennis and volleyball. ACL injuries can range from mild where there are small tears to severe cases wherein the ligament is already torn.

Torn ACL Exercises

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises is an effective treatment for patients with torn ACL. These exercises are crucial to help restore the stability in the affected knee and help the patient return to his normal daily activities.

Generally, to a person with a torn ACL, a physical therapist may educate the patient regarding prevention of ACL tears. Some home exercise programs are also taught to the patient for him to continue the exercises that will help strengthen the muscles that are found around the knee. Often times, if the patient is an active athlete, a hinged knee brace is given to help provide increased stability.

Partially Torn ACL Exercises

To patients with partially torn ACL, a rehabilitation exercise is a focal treatment to help restore the injured knee’s strength and range of motion.

In this case, one can do any of the following:

  • Knee Flexion/Extension: Can be done while standing, seated, or lying down. Gently bend the heel of the affected leg towards the buttocks to flex the knee then gently return the foot back down to extend. Perform at least 10 to 30 repetitions for three times a day.
  • Step-ups: Use the bottom landing of stairs, low bench or a fitness step. Step first with the foot of the affected leg. Do at least 10 to 15 step-ups at least twice a day.
  • Squats: It strengthens the muscles that support the ACL. Single-leg squats may be performed on the affected side at the same time holding onto a wall or chair for balance. Stability balls can also be used for squats.
  • Resistance Band Exercises: Exercises with the use of resistance band are more difficult to perform. It is better to wait until the exercises can be done without causing too much pain.

Treatment for Torn ACL

Usually, a torn ACL can be treated without the need for surgery. The following are non-surgical ways to treat a complete or partially torn ACL:

  • Do cold compress on affected knee.
  • Wear a leg brace to act as support when walking. Crutches can also be used.
  • Increase the knee’s range of motion as tolerated.
  • Strengthen the knee’s surrounding muscles including the hamstrings, quadriceps, calf etc.
  • Plan to at least temporarily give up activities that could add further damage to the injured knee.

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