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ACL Tears

The ACL, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is one of the four main ligaments in the knee joint. It is responsible for providing stability to the knee during movement. When the ACL is torn, the knee can become unstable and it may be difficult to perform activities such as running, jumping, or pivoting. This injury is most commonly seen in athletes who play sports that involve sudden stops and direction changes but can also occur during everyday activities.

typical causes:

An ACL tear is one of the most common knee injuries, and it can occur from a variety of factors such as sports or accidents. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located in the center of the knee and connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). When the ACL is stretched too much or torn, it can result in pain, swelling, instability, and difficulty walking or moving around. This type of injury can significantly affect a person’s daily life and may require surgery. While ACL tears are more common in athletes, they can happen to anyone. 

how physical therapy can help:

Physical therapy is an essential aspect of recovering from an ACL tear. It can help to restore strength and mobility in the knee, improve gait mechanics, and prevent further damage to the ligament and surrounding tissues. With the help of a skilled physical therapist, patients can work to improve their range of motion, reduce swelling and inflammation, and regain their strength, providing them with the opportunity to live an active and healthy lifestyle again.

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exercises and recommendations that may help reduce pain:

Individuals who have gone through an ACL reconstruction surgery should seek the guidance of a physical therapist. Not every recovery process is the same and the surgeon’s protocol may differ between individuals. It is important to work with a physical therapist following surgery to safely restore the function of the knee as outlined by the surgeon’s protocol. 

The following strategies and movements are for individuals who are either electing not to have surgery or are looking to improve the range of motion and strength in the knee prior to surgery.

Swelling Management – One of the first steps in managing swelling after an ACL tear is educating yourself on the various methods available. Elevating the leg and applying compression around the knee are simple yet effective strategies to reduce swelling. This can be performed for 15-20 minutes. Additionally, gentle muscle contractions, such as ankle pumps or quad sets, can be performed while the knee is elevated and compressed to further reduce swelling. These movements do not need to be performed continuously but can be done intermittently during the 15-20 minutes. More commonly known is the use of ice to reduce pain and swelling. You can apply ice on the knee for 20 minutes at a time. Elevation can be utilized during this process to further assist with reducing swelling.

Heel Slide – Wrap a strap around your foot, pull to bend your knee, hold for 5-10 seconds, then slide your foot out and straighten your knee. Repeat 20-30 times, 3-5 times daily. Stay within a range that is comfortable and not creating more pain.

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Quad Set – Sit on the floor with your injured leg straight in front of you. Bend your other knee up and place your foot flat on the floor. Press the back of your injured knee toward the floor to squeeze the quadriceps musculature. Hold this contraction for 5 to 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat 15-20 times, 3-5 times daily.

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