ACL Recovery Diary: Weeks 1-6

As you all know, I recently underwent ACL reconstruction surgery, and I wanted to share my journey in the form of a recovery diary.

Starting with weeks 1-6, I’ll be talking about everything from the pain to rehab exercises to my state of mind. Additionally, my super physio, Amy Christie of Six Physio, is adding her two cents for each portion of my journey. I worked with Amy in the lead up to the operation and now during my rehab.

Caveat! Everyone is different. This is my experience, it is not advice. Always seek out your medical professional.

If you haven’t read it already, also check out the explainer article for exactly the ACL is, why it’s prone to injury and what the surgery entails, by my physio, Amy Christie.

The Diary

Week 1-2

Surgery done! It felt like a long road to surgery. Now the next challenge starts. There was pain and swelling. It was uncomfortable. The main priority was to manage the pain and swelling with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE!).

Stairs were not my friend. Without being able to bend your knee, and with crutches to synchronise, stairs are hard. I was also encouraged not to do too much walking during this time. All hikes and runs cancelled for the time being.

I was given some gentle post-op exercises by the hospital, such as ankle pumps, lying knee flexions, static quads lying, knee hangs (still not able to do this one at 6 weeks) and isometric hamstring exercises.

The instructions said to aim for 90 degrees bend in the knee – I was nowhere near that! I am only getting to 90 degrees by the 6 week mark. I’ve been assured that this is quite normal, so don’t worry if you aren’t there yet.

I was called in between 7 and 14 days for the first physio appointment at the hospital and to have the stitches out.

State of mind:

The first week was a real struggle. Inactivity, a lot more pain than I was expecting. I knew it was going to be tough but it was much more than I thought. I was cramping in my hips and back, my body was just not used to not moving.

A thing that helped me was to have some nice and gentle things planned so that I didn’t feel stuck. I went for coffees with friends, for example. I also found it helpful not to be on my own during that time. I went back home and was lucky enough to have my mum and dad around to chat with and to help me with basic and annoying things that were just hard during that time.

By week 2, the biggest change was more confidence with the crutches. I got to the point where I would sometimes just use one getting around indoors. The swelling was more manageable by the end of week 2 but not a huge amount.

Week 1-2 Milestone Progress

  • Bending: 50-75 degrees
  • Straightening: 20 degrees from the floor
  • Walking: Ever so slightly weight-bearing, with the crutches

Amy, The Physio:

You’ve had a big op, chill out. This is the time for Netflix and mum’s cooking (Grace had about 6 roast dinners in the space of 2 weeks…). Swelling management is important, so stick with the classic RICE to help acutely manage things. Look at maintaining mobility with crutches and weight bear as much as is comfortable, but key lesson: Listen to your body! Ideally, you’re starting to work through that knee bend as pain allows, and extension likewise.

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