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Do I Need Physical Therapy After an ACL Injury?

Do I Need Physical Therapy After an ACL Injury?

October 10, 2023
By Next Level Physical Therapy

How Physical Therapy Can Help You Recover from an ACL Injury

ACL tears are painful injuries most commonly sustained by athletes or those participating in sports or other strenuous activities. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament won’t heal on their own, and while some people attempt to live with the injury, most elect to undergo surgery to repair the damage. In either case, physical therapy can help individuals regain their strength, stability, and range of motion.

After an ACL injury, it is important to do everything you can to recover as fully as possible. At Next Level Physical Therapy & Athletic Performance, our experienced team will perform an in-depth assessment of your injury and create a customized treatment plan to help you return to enjoying the activities you love. Call (661) 383-9828 today to schedule an appointment.

Diagnosing an ACL Sprain

If you suspect you have injured your ACL, you should see a doctor or physical therapist right away. During your initial visit, they will conduct a physical examination to diagnose the nature and extent of the injury. While most ACL sprains can be diagnosed during the exam, they may choose to order imaging tests. X-rays may be ordered to check for broken bones, or an MRI might be performed to determine the severity of the damage to your ACL.

ACL damage is graded on a scale. 

Grade 1 - If your injury falls into this category, you have suffered mild damage to your ACL. Grade 1 injuries mean that the ligament was stretched but is still providing stability to your knee.

Grade 2 - If your ligament was stretched and is now loose, it is considered a Grade 2 injury or partial tear.

Grade 3 - A complete tear is considered a Grade 3 injury. A complete ACL tear means that your ligament is broken into two pieces and, therefore, is not providing any stability to your knee joint.

ACL Reconstruction Surgery

Surgery is used to repair or reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament. In this procedure, the surgeon replaces or repairs the damaged ligament using a tissue graft. While reconstruction surgery is always needed to repair a complete ACL tear (grade 3,) surgery is only required for some partial tears (grade 2.)

Physical Therapy as a Non-Surgical Treatment

While most grade 1 and 2 injuries don’t require surgery, physical therapy is still highly recommended. Even if you are still deciding whether to have ACL reconstruction surgery, you may choose to try physical therapy first. If, after a few weeks of treatment, your knee feels stable and you are not experiencing any pain, you might be able to recover without surgery.

Post-Surgery Physical Therapy

If you are still experiencing pain or instability in your knee after a few weeks of physical therapy or you sustained a complete ACL tear, you may require surgery to repair the damage. After your surgery, your doctor will typically have you begin physical therapy right away.

Your physical therapist will first begin by getting your pain and swelling under control. They will then work on knee stiffness by performing stretches and other range of motion (ROM) exercises. From there, your physical therapist will utilize highly effective techniques to help you regain your balance, strength, and stability. The types and duration of treatment depend on several factors, but you will likely need physical therapy for three months or more to recover as fully as possible from your injury.

Contact Our Santa Clarita Physical Therapists to Learn More

Whether or not your ACL injury will require surgery, it will almost certainly require physical therapy. PT will help you regain strength, stability, and motion in your knee after an ACL tear, helping you return to your normal level of activity.

At Next Level Physical Therapy & Athletic Performance, our team has decades of experience treating a wide range of knee conditions and disorders, including ACL injuries. Our doctors of physical therapy and personal trainers are focused on your recovery and will take a multidisciplinary approach to get you back to a pain-free, active lifestyle. To learn more about your treatment options, schedule an evaluation. Contact us online or call (661) 383-9828 today.

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