A Fitness Junkie's Worst Nightmare: The Dreaded Torn ACL
The saying “no pain, no gain” doesn’t just apply to the discomfort you feel when you are working on building muscle and your body is adjusting to the hard workouts. In some cases, pain from an injury can completely paralyze you from making any gains at all, and set you back weeks or even months in your athletic progress.
One such injury is the dreaded torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), which is among the most common knee injuries facing athletes, from basketball players to gymnasts. If your sport requires running, jumping, or changing directions quickly, you may be at risk of an ACL injury.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament
The ACL is a knee structure, which helps to prevent forward slippage of the shinbone under your thighbone. Due to the anatomy of women’s bodies, females are more likely to tear their ACL.
When you have an ACL tear, you will experience knee instability and this usually limits you from taking engaging in athletic and fitness activities. If you experience a pop around your knee followed by excruciating pain, you probably have a torn ACL. A doctor or a physical therapist can determine if you have torn your ACL by doing an anterior drawer test for your knee.
A torn ACL is considered a 2nd or 3rd degree ACL sprain.
Torn ACL Physical Therapy
A physical therapist helps you during your recovery and rehabilitation period. The main aim of ACL Torn Physical therapy is to get you back to your previous knee function. Therapy for a torn ACL includes the following exercises and remedies:
Pain control: The swelling can be reduced using icepacks and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) can be used to relieve you of the pain.
Gait training: Your stability will be affected and to walk, you will probably use crutches before you can walk without any assistance.
Swelling management: The swelling on your knee will have to be decreased and a principle called RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation of your knee) is the best way to go about this.
Strengthening exercises: During your ACL rehabilitation, it will be necessary for you to strengthen your quadriceps, hip muscles, and hamstrings. Quadriceps can be strengthened by doing exercises such as straight leg raises. In some cases, your physical therapist may use electrical stimulation (also known as NMES or Russian stimulation) to help you regain normal quadriceps control.
Balance exercises: To regain normal body awareness and stability, you will have to try to go back to balancing on the injured knee. Balance exercises can be done on a BAPS board or a wobble board.
Range of motion ROM exercises: To improve your knee mobility, you can do ROM exercises such as the prime hang.
Plyometrics: To get back into your athletic game, you will have to jump and land properly and this can be done by undergoing plyometric training while you are doing physical therapy.
“Is there a top rated physical therapist near me?” you ask. Well, you can check these service areas, for premier physical therapy treatment to patients in the South Bay region.
In case the physical therapy is not successful in returning your knee to its previous function an orthopedic surgeon may recommend that you undergo surgery. You will be advised on the benefits and risks of undergoing such a procedure.
The torn ligament will then be reconstructed by doing ACL surgery. Surgery is recommended only when necessary and if you would like to regain your knee function. To determine the activity level while assessing patients, a questionnaire was developed by The International Knee Documentation Committee.
This committee is a collaboration between American and European orthopedic surgeons. The 4 levels of activities included:
- Level I: Pivoting, jumping and hard cutting
- Level II: Heavy manual work or side-to-side sports
- Level III: Light manual work and non-cutting sports like running and bicycling
- Level IV: Sedentary lifestyle without sports
Patients who engage in activities under Level I and II may have to undergo surgery. Thereafter, you will recover then avoid possible future injuries. There is a difference between injury prevention and rehabilitation and we shall discuss this next.
ACL Tear Recovery
After undergoing an ACL repair surgery your recovery period may be 6-9 months. By all means, take extra precaution during your recovery period so as to avoid a repeat case of getting a torn ACL. Injury rehabilitation is done through the effort of a person and a physical therapist and it is done to recover after surgery and work around the pain.
Injury prevention is whereby you have no existing injury and avoid getting injured. Physical therapists are the best health professionals to help you in injury prevention and exercise programs since they fully understand each body part. Physical therapists can also attend to your fitness needs by providing elite sports training and balance exercises and training.
While it is good that you do strength training as you recover, try your best not to damage the repair done during surgery or rehabilitation. It is understandable that you may not be used to slower movements but the focus is on your healing. Do moderate movements since staying sedentary over the healing period may lengthen your recovery time.
How to Prevent a Torn ACL
After experiencing the excruciating pain and discomfort, you would not want to get back to that situation. Therefore, to avoid tearing your ACL, you will have to continue with the strengthening exercises and if need be, wear leg braces so as to avoid injury. Maintain your agility, flexibility and muscle strength.
Practicing how to jump and land properly also helps, especially for women.
Recovery of a Torn ACL
If you have a torn ACL needing physical therapy to go back into form, you need to get the best help you can get. Getting help will help you prevent the chances of injury depression and get you back on the field as soon as possible.
Contact us and have us walk you through your healing journey and ease the pain caused by your sprain to achieve the goal of getting you back on your feet and back to your fit form.