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Recovery & Support for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears

NYU Langone doctors and rehabilitation specialists are available to help you manage pain and discomfort and regain movement and strength in your knee after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery and offer a range of support services.

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Recovery After ACL Surgery

At an appointment about a week after your procedure, your surgical team will ensure that your incision is healing properly. Your doctor also checks on your knee to make sure swelling is subsiding and to assess any pain or discomfort.

The amount of pain experienced during recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery varies from person to person. Your doctor works with you to manage pain and inflammation using medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen. Stronger prescription medications may be used in the short term for pain flare-ups.

Applying an ice pack and elevating the knee for 15 minutes 3 times a day may also help manage pain and reduce swelling. Using a cold therapy machine, which automatically cools your injury over a 24-hour period, may also be an option.

Your doctor also works closely with physical therapists who develop a personalized rehabilitation plan for you.

Physical and Occupational Therapy

Physical and occupational therapy, available at NYU Langone Orthopedic Center, starts as soon as possible after surgery to help you develop full range of motion, stability, and strength in the knee joint.

Basic exercises, such as contracting the front thigh muscles, leg raises, and foot pumps, begin immediately after ACL reconstruction to prevent muscle atrophy. While you are still on crutches as part of the healing process, your physical therapist may have you use a stationary exercise bike to help you regain range of motion and reduce swelling. Your physical therapist may also use heat, ice, and massage to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

After swelling has gone down, your physical therapist can give you increasingly strenuous exercises that stretch and tone muscle and increase your range of motion. You may also start using an elliptical or treadmill when placing weight on the knee becomes easier. Three or four months after surgery, jogging is encouraged. You can start doing pivoting exercises a month or two afterward.

Return to playing sports may take 6 to 12 months, depending on muscle strength, tone, and landing ability on the knee joint. Using advanced equipment, specialists at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center can assess and refine your movements to help protect your knee from future injury.

Our Research and Education in Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.