💡 Note: This is just one person's perspective. This is not medical advice Still rely on your surgeon and physical therapy for the recovery plan that is specific to you!
I'm Mika - tore my ACL on a skiing trip on Feb 14, 2021. Had my surgery Mar 22, 2021 — hamstring graft, no meniscus tear repair. I'm close to 5w post-op as of this writing and already walking without crutches! Hopefully this helps you get there faster than me! 🙂
- Do pre-op therapy if you can, even by yourself. The stronger your quads are beforehand, the lesser it will atrophy, the faster you will recover.
- Do simple quad lifts 5x everyday. I did quad lifts everyday but not A LOT and could have been much stronger.
- Still walk around (if you can!)
- Get to a good enough flex — my surgeon needed me to get to 120 flexion before i could even get surgery. Make sure you clear what flex you need to be at with your surgeon.
- Prep goodies! Especially beforehand.
- Your diet will fluctuate in your first week because of the meds.
- Find food that doesn't feel too heavy to consume when you don't feel hungry but have to eat. Especially sources of protein. My "food" of choice was Ensure (Strawberry! — so good.)
- Pick up the meds!
- I got my meds beforehand and my painkillers on the day, after the prescription from my doctor.
- Get those painkillers ASAP. Because they're (likely) opioids, it was unavailable from a lot of pharmacies near me so my partner had to call up a couple until he found one (luckily!). Try to see if you can get the name of the painkillers beforehand to see if it'll be available in your pharmacy. They are a god send so it'd be tough if you didn't have the painkillers immediately after!
- Join FB & Reddit ACL Reconstruction communities.
- Facebook ACL Recovery Club, r/ACL
- They are the most supportive group of strangers you'll find on the Internet.
- If there are random things you need quick tips on, you can crowdsource from the group. Of course still use your judgment rely on your doctor and PT for most everything, but it's a great way to crowdsource tips (& find motivation!)
- Think of happy thoughts right before they put the anesthesia you. So you wake up with good thoughts right after. 🙂
- Make sure someone is taking care of you right after and for the rest of the first 2 weeks.
- Take pics of the precautions (they might give it to you right before the procedure and ask you to read it) & send it to your caregiver.
- Warn them that they will have to get you a lot of stuff, even help you go to the bathroom! It's a serious surgery and you'll need the help.
- Don't expect to do anything the rest of the day! You will be whoozy & sleepy from the anesthesia and drugs.
- There's no reason to feel anxious or afraid! I was pretty calm coming in knowing:
- It's a normal procedure, so many people have gone through it, safely!
- There's a whole community of ACL-ees that are back in their sports, tougher than ever.
- The growth is so stark and so fast! It's motivating!
- Warning: Your second day will be the WORST. The anesthesia goes away and your wounds are fresh.
- If you don't have a wheelchair, use your office chair to wheel you around when going to the bathroom or when you need to go to the doctor, lol! It worked wonders for me!
- Keep RICE-ing. Your knee will be swollen so keep resting, icing, compressing & elevating.
- Try to activate your quads when you can.
- Your quads will atrophy EXTREMELY quickly. You want to diminish the chances of it atrophying that quickly.
- Try quad lifts or quad activations. I ended up doing it 1w post-op when I met my therapist— I wish I did it wayyy sooner, once the doctor cleared me.
- Schedule your post-op check-up ASAP. I had mine 2 days after.
- My surgeon extracted fluids that relived the excruciating pain severely! God send.
- Get cleared to do more exercises, specifically more quad lifts, & heel slides. I was cleared to do the exercises, but got scared (see next tip!)
- Don't be afraid to try the exercises sooner than later.
- Super interesting & counterintuitive thing: pushing out your exercises does NOT make you heal faster. Unlike fractures and other injuries, we think we should wait until it's healed, but for ACL, your muscles atrophy SO quickly that it compounds the difficulty of recovery.
- Consistently go to PT and do your exercises!
- These exercises will literally determine whether you'll ever walk properly again or get to a full bend! Do them religiously otherwise LT consequences.
- Talk to other ACL-ees for comfort.
- See "Join communities" bullet. So comforting!
- Find other ACL friends (Hi!)
- If you can (though most PT clinics don't give you a choice), find a therapist that's a fellow ACL. Mine is and I feel so comfortable knowing she knows how it feels & understands how fast/slow I am in progressing.