Physical Therapy After ACL Surgery

ACL recovery


Recovering from ACL tear surgery takes time and dedication to physical therapy. It typically takes 9-12 months before patients can return to sport; however, every patient has a unique recovery experience.  Learn about the importance of physical therapy before and after ACL surgery, along with other recovery tips.


Physical Therapy Before ACL Surgery

Physically therapy before surgery may seem counterintuitive; however, pre-operative physical therapy can reduce recovery time, lessen the risk of complications from surgery, and mentally prepare the patient for what’s to come.

You certainly don’t have to get physical therapy before ACL reconstruction surgery, but you should consider it if your knee surgeon thinks it will be beneficial.

If you choose to get PT before ACL surgery, your physical therapist may recommend exercises that focus on strengthening your hamstrings and quadriceps, improve balance, reduce pain and swelling in the knee, and improve hip stability. Some examples of the exercises they may recommend include:

Single Leg Stand for Balance

Stand on one leg and hold your balance for 30 seconds.

Heel Dig Bridge for Strength

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Move your feet so that your heels are digging into the floor. Lift your hips and squeeze your buttocks. Hold this pose for 5-10 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Hip Circles for Stability

Start by standing on one leg, with your other leg extended. Move your leg in 15 small circles each way. Repeat on your other leg. Feel free to use a chair or the wall for extra support.


Physical Therapy After ACL Surgery

After ACL surgery, your physical therapist will work with you to reduce pain and swelling, improve mobility, increase strength, and get you back to doing what you love. Your PT will create an exercise plan unique to you with different exercises for different phases of the healing process. Every journey is different, but here’s is what you can expect in a typical recovery timeline:

Shortly after Surgery

1-2 weeks after surgery your physical therapist will focus on helping you adjust to your crutches/brace, and practice gentle range of motion exercises.

A Few Weeks In

3-6 weeks post-op you may continue doing range of motion exercises, as well as some strengthening exercises, and potentially some endurance exercises. 

1-3 Months Post-Op

After a few months, your physical therapist will be working with you to return to sport, and you may be able to do some running.

4-6 Months Post-Op

At this point of recovery, you are likely getting close to returning to sport. You will continue doing range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, and working out. Your physical therapist will evaluate when you are cleared to return to sport; it may range from 6 months to one year (with some exceptions.)


ACL Surgery Recovery Tips

It is important to listen to your physical therapist’s advice when it comes to ACL recovery. In addition to at-home physical therapy exercises, they may recommend:


Seek Help from a Physical Therapist Near You

If you are recoverying from ACL surgery, or your are experiencing general knee pain, seek help from a physical therapist near you. Our physical therapists in Nashville, TN work with a range of people including some of the top athletes in Tennessee.


Marina von Rutenberg Marina is the Marketing Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2021.

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