What is an ACL Tear and How Do I Treat It?

Injury

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament in the knee which provides stability and works against hyperextension of the knee. Full or partial tearing of the ACL is a very common knee injury in both athletic and normal populations. This injury typically occurs when an exterior force acts on the knee with the foot planted on the ground. Studies have found that women are up to three times more likely to experience an ACL tear than men.

The ACL is just one of the main ligaments in the middle of your knee that connects the tibia and femur, giving stability to the knee. This hinged joint is composed, moves, and held in place by the medial collateral (MCL), lateral collateral (LCL), anterior cruciate (ACL), and posterior cruciate (PCL). A good portion of ACL injuries also find sprains or tears to the meniscus as well.

Treatment

There are many treatments available for an ACL tear and the treatment prescribed depends on the injury severity. The conservative approach to treatment works to avoid surgery.

Avoid All Activities

Immediately after the injury, it is important to avoid all activities involving the injured leg and to ice and rest the leg until the swelling goes down. After swelling has diminished, the patient can begin to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee (hamstrings and quadriceps). The torn ligament reduces stability of the knee and these muscles must now make up for that loss.

R.I.C.E. Method

One of the best ways you can an ACL sprain or torn ACL s to use the R.I.C.E. method after injury amd several days following. The R.I.C.E. method is REST – this allows for healing and limits weight bearing activities or pressure on your injury. ICE – while you are restin, try to ice your knee at least every two hours for 20 minutes at a time. This will help reduce swelling and keep pain to a minimum. COMPRESSION – you can wrap an elastic band around your knee or use a 4-Way Stretch Premium Knit Knee Support with Thermo Reactive Technology. The unique knit fabric additive absorbs and reflects your own body heat. That means increased blood flow and improved recovery time for you. Fits right or left knee. ELEVATION – this goes along with rest, but ensure you are propping your knee up with a pillow or cushion whil you are lying down so that gravity can push fluids away from your injury.

Physical Therapy

If you’re looking for a non-surgical treatment to your ACL injury, physical therapy could be an option. Physical therapy may restore your knee injury and educate you on how to prevent future injuries to your knee. Physical therapy typically recommends patients wear a hinged knee brace or similar ACL brace to contain the knee in a stabilized placement to prevent further sprains or tears. The best knee brace for torn ACL is typically personal preference, but you can find many different variety of knee braces on our website.

If ACL surgery is necessary, either an autograft (tissue from the person’s own body) or an allograft (tissue from a cadaver or donor) replaces the ACL. Generally, either the hamstring tendon or patellar tendon replaces the torn ligament. During surgery the surgeon removes the damaged ligament and affixes the replacement.

Recovery

Post-operative physical therapy consists of strengthening and range of motion exercises. These ensure that the body accepts the newly repaired tissue and the patient regains as much of the normal function, stability, and range of motion as possible. Full recovery usually takes roughly 1 year.

If you have any questions on ACL injuries or treatments, please consult with your physician and for further questions feel free to contact us.