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The 4 best treatment options to help manage your ACL injury

Suffering from an ACL injury is painful and it’s vital that you follow the correct treatment process. This will ensure that you regain as much strength and movement as possible in the joint and that the rehabilitation process is efficient. Depending on the level of injury you have suffered and the degree of recovery that is required, there are a number of different treatment options. These can include rest, physiotherapy, wearing an ACL brace or undergoing reconstructive surgery, or even a combination of all of these

What is an ACL Injury?

A tear of the ACL can occur following a number of events. It could be as simple as falling awkwardly, or the injury could be as a result of a sports incident. It can often happen when landing on your feet if the knee experiences a twisting motion. This type of injury can also occur during a tackle in sports such as rugby and football. Often sports people who are prone to this injury will use a preventative measure such as an ACL brace.

Diagram showing a healthy knee and a knee with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament

When an injury of this type first occurs you will feel an immense pain around the joint and the area will instantly start to swell. In the initial stages you need to limit the pain and swelling, which will reduce any discomfort and speed up the recovery process. This can be achieved through a combination of rest, the application of ice, compression, elevation and pain relief (medication). A knee brace can help to keep the joint in the right position, allowing you to move it and stop it from becoming stiff.

Treating an ACL Injury

The aim of treatment is to restore stability to the knee and regain the same level of usage that you had prior to the incident. An effective treatment programme will also help you to prevent any further damage and limit the level of pain. Some ACL injuries will require surgery, but others can be helped by an ongoing process of rehabilitation, including the wearing of a knee brace. Whether you undergo surgery or not will generally depend on your lifestyle and the severity of the injury.

Rest

Rest is important following any injury, it allows the body time to heal naturally. The problem with ligaments is that they don’t have a fantastic blood supply so take longer to repair naturally compared to a cut or a graze.

By taking it easy you’re not placing undue stress on the affected joint and running the risk of causing further damage. Controlled weight bearing is important during recovery, but only after the initial injury has healed otherwise a minor sprain could become a lot worse.

Physiotherapy

Once the initial injury has healed you need to work at strengthening the joint again before you get back out there. This helps to minimise the risk of you doing the same thing again, especially as once you’ve injured yourself once there will be an inherent weakness.

A physiotherapist will be able to work with you on appropriate exercises and stretching to help with your recovery. They may even recommend the use of a knee brace to be worn outside of your session to offer an additional level of protection.

Surgery

Surgery is often only undertaken when there is a complete rupture to the ligament as it is not a small operation. Surgeons may attempt to repair the original ligament but generally they will take a graft from the hamstring or the groin region and create a brand new ligament. They then create a hole and feed the new ligament through before screwing it in place.

Typical recovery following surgery can be up to a year and your rehab post-surgery will normally involve rest, physiotherapy to help you get back on your feet and knee bracing to keep you on your feet.

Knee bracing

Wearing a knee brace can offer benefits to people who have suffered an ACL injury. They can help to protect the knee joint, keep it stable and prevent further damage. These types of braces are used before and after surgery, either in the short term or as more of a long-term preventative measure.

If you are put forward for surgery, you will need to strengthen the muscle beforehand to aid the recovery process. This can be achieved more effectively using a knee brace. A brace will support the knee during the healing process and provide help with the immediate instability of the joint. This will allow you to keep moving the joint, regaining your strength without putting any unnecessary pressure on the area. A knee brace can also limit the risk of further injury by altering how forces travel through your ACL. This is why they are often worn by sports people, even after the initial injury has recovered.

Following an ACL injury, it’s crucial that you receive the right type of treatment. This will improve your ability to recover fully and reduce the impact of any long-term issues. Wearing a type of specialist brace is one of the options available and is most effective when combined with other measures.