ACL Repair – Timeline of My Recovery (With Pictures)

acl repair surgery in hospital

This post is part of a series. You may want to start here.

If your want the quick links, here’s the full series:

My Real Life Guide To ACL Surgery and Recovery

Injuring my ACL – My Story

15 Surprises From My ACL Repair Surgery – What They Don’t Tell You

ACL Recovery – 15 Things I Would Have Done Differently

Gadgets & Products That Helped my ACL Recovery

In 2016 I had ACL surgery. It seemed like a no-brainer since I’m a travel writer and was (relatively) young when I ruptured my ACL, MCL and meniscus in one fell swoop – I say swoop, I mean dancing under a limbo bar. Hey, it was pretty low and I was one of only two remaining contestants in line for a bottle of rum until I heard that heartbreaking ‘pop’. 

I didn’t think that I’d still be updating this post several years after the original surgery. 

Why am I still updating it? Because I’ve come to realise that my ACL recovery is an ongoing work in progress. The doctor advised me that my knee would never been 100%. And since I’m a perfectionist, I am always striving to make my knee stronger. 

In this post I’ll give you full details of my ACL recovery timeline and experience.

I’ve updated this post over time up. Keep in mind that I was 40 years old when I had surgery and I was relatively fit but not the fittest I’ve been in my life (I waited nearly a year from my surgery, which didn’t help). We also all have different levels of pain tolerance and recovery speeds but this is how I found things.

Warning: incision photos in this post. I have included some pictures of my knee after the surgery, including a few days after I had my ACL surgery. Some of them are pretty gruesome. The worst one is under the ‘after a few days’ section. 

My ACL Repair Recovery Experience

Pre-surgery and even post-surgery I’ve done a lot of research on what ACL recovery looks like and apart from a bunch of medical websites that have vastly varying timescales, I didn’t find anything close to a real description. So, I thought I’d share my recovery experience. Of course, everyone is going to be different: I’m 5ft tall so that’s providing some challenges (step height and sitting in chairs); I’m not good with pain; I’m terrified of falling over; but I am diligent about doing my exercises and have the luxury of working from home to commit time to doing them.

I was at the end of week 3 of recovery from ACL repair surgery when I wrote the first section. I have then kept it updated over the years in case you’re still having niggles down the line. Here’s my experience.

In hospital

  • placed on a machine to get 45 degree range of motion operating
  • tested on crutches
  • told I can weight bear on both legs if using crutches
  • given ‘stair training’ so I can use the stairs with crutches
  • given 3 exercises to do at home: i) heel slides (lying down, sliding my heel until my knee was bent); ii) straight leg raises (also from lying or sitting down), contraction of the quadracep (flexing the muscle above my knee))
  • told RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation (but without the compression)
  • bandage and surgical dressings applied

You can read about my surgery experience here – there were a few surprises. 

First 24 hours after ACL repair

  • Dressing & incisions: remove bandage day after surgery and change dressing (luckily not much full-on blood but some weeping)
  • Crutches: on both crutches to get around – makes carrying things a problem, especially on stairs. Tip – get a shoulder bag to carry items around (e.g. book, pain meds, water bottle)
  • Pain medication: taking maximum pain medication, added in Ibuprofen and wishing I had more
  • Physio & swelling: exercises hurt so I do them just after taking pain medication. I don’t think my knees ‘that swollen’ (turns out it is)
  • Stairs: (up and down) require one crutch and two feet on each step
  • Sleeping: not able to sleep in usual position (on front). Can sleep on side with support of pillow under my knee
  • Range of motion: without the machine, actually feels like I have less ROM than immediately post op
  • Bathing: ‘sink wash’ with a flannel

After a few days

acl repair surgery recovery day 2
I believe this was day 2 after surgery. Good colours, don’t you think?
  • Dressing & incision changing dressing each day (still weeping). Pretty colourful bruising (front – ACL repair surgery; back – medial meniscus repair)
  • Crutches: down to one crutch at home
  • Pain medication: still taking maximum pain medication and feeling pain in the hour to half hour before the next dose
  • Physio & swelling: exercises still painful but already feeling easier – I should be icing my knee but I don’t (because I’m stupid and think it’s not ‘that’ swollen)
  • Stairs: (up and down) still require one crutch and two feet on each step
  • Sleeping: still not able to sleep in usual position (on front). Can sleep on side with support of pillow under my knee
  • Range of motion: leg feeling generally more stable but range of motion still very limited
  • Bathing: somewhere between a sink wash but with the shower turned on, using a flannel. Able to wash my hair but helps I’m at my mum’s house where there’s a disabled walk-in shower with shower seat

Within a week

  • back home (alone) – feeling a bit nervous in case I tumble down the stairs and die…all alone…I get over this after a couple of goes up and down the stairs
  • Dressing and incision: dressing pretty much clean and now spending a few hours with dressing off to give incision some air. Bruising moving south (thanks, gravity)
  • Crutches: hobbling without crutches indoors but one crutch outdoors (not that I’m going out much beyond physio appointment)
  • Pain medication: ditched the coedine but otherwise still on maximum pain medication
  • Physio & swelling: first physio session just to check how I’m doing. Knee swollen preventing further range of motion – told to ice. Berate myself for being stupid
  • Stairs: (up and down) still require one crutch and two feet on each step
  • Sleeping: still not able to sleep in usual position (on front). Can sleep on side with support of pillow under my knee
  • Range of motion – at 45 degrees (the target I was given)
  • Bathing – back to more regular style of daily showering but it’s a hell of a balancing act trying not to get dressing and staples wet.

Within 10 days

acl repair surgery recovery staple
I was tempted to pull this staple out with my fingers!
  • Dressing and incision: fed up of the dressing – skin feels tight and sore and I’d take it off permanently if I wasn’t worried about snagging a staple. Speaking of staples – my body is starting to reject them and they’re working their own way out (magical)
  • Crutches: without crutches indoors and trying to replicate proper walking (rolling through the toe) but it’s deliberate and slow. Still using one crutch outside. Made it to the supermarket (accompanied) – good to have the trolley for support but getting around is tiring
  • Pain medication: starting to use pain medication more sporadically but still taking something every day
  • Physio & swelling: continuing with exercises – much easier but don’t feel like I’m making much more progress. Ice is helping with swelling but knee still tight
  • Stairs: stairs (up and down) crutch free but using the wall/banister for support and still two feet on each step
  • Sleeping: still not able to sleep in usual position (on front). Can sleep on side with support of pillow under my knee
  • Range of motion – hard to tell – feels about the same as post op, but it’s slowly getting easier to move
  • Bathing – completely over keeping my dressing dry and with ‘staple removal date’ in sight, I shower normally and put a dry dressing on immediately after each shower. Takes a toll on my leg skin but my hair and body feel better for it. For the ladies – annoyed I didn’t fit in time to wax my legs pre-op because there’s no way I can do it now, so forced to shave. Grrrr.

Within 2 weeks

acl repair surgery post staples
The day I had my staples out – 2 weeks post surgery
acl repair surgery staples gone
A bit of a close up…
  • Dressing and incision: staples are removed – hurrah! Hurt like hell but feels good.
  • Crutches: told by physio to wean myself off crutches indoors over the next week or two but I’m already there. Still too nervous to go crutch-free outside (uneven road by my house)
  • Pain medication: taking much more sporadically and most days taking none at all. Needed mostly at night if I do need them.
  • Physio & swelling: back to physio and given 3 additional new exercises (1/4 squat against wall,  1/2 lunge, supported steps going up one at a time). Taken into the gym to try the bike and step. Swelling going down but still there. Told to continue icing.
  • Exercises: advised to get back to the gym 2-3 times a week for 10 minutes of cycling. Frustrating because i) I can’t drive so need to rely on others or take taxis; ii) for just 10 minutes of exercise (and some careful upper body weights if I want), it feels like a big effort/poor use of time but I commit to it
  • Stairs: stairs (up and down) still using the wall/banister for support and still two feet on each step but now in ‘stair training’ practising on bottom step at first, taking full weight on the knee to go up (not enough ROM for going down yet)
  • Sleeping: still not able to sleep in usual position (on front). Can sleep on side with support of pillow under my knee. Seems just as irritating on the incision because now I have no protective dressing.
  • Range of motion – Leg is close to straight when lying down but not when I stand up, making standing painful after a while. Range of motion is up to about 110-120 degrees (full ROM is around 180 degrees)
  • Bathing – back to normal – so nice to put the incision under running water.

When can I return to work after ACL surgery?

The answer to that really is going to depend on what you do and how your recovery goes. I work from home and do a laptop based job and while I’ve been checking emails since week one, sitting at a desk to reply to them has been more of a challenge. Equally, because I can’t fully bend or straighten my leg, my laptop on my lap isn’t a good alternative.

I’m going to try to get back to something close to a normal work week next week (week 4). Fortunately, working from home, I can have a rest/lie down when it all gets too much. I’m also free to fit in my physio exercises as and when. Oh, and I don’t have a commute, so no need to stand on the Tube or figure out how to get to work without being able to drive (an activity for weeks 4 to 6).

If I worked in an office, I’d try to get some work from home time and return on reduced hours around weeks 3-4. In fact, that’s what the hospital told me was a reasonable expectation and it feels about right.

Within 3 weeks of ACL surgery

acl repair surgery week 3
Taken 3 weeks after surgery – I’m pleased to say it’s already starting to look very ‘what’s all the fuss about’. Can you still make-out the edging where the dressing was? It’s still spotted and bothered.
  • Dressing and incision: Still need to wear ‘soft’ clothes – jeans are tough and irritate the incision but it’s nice to be staple and dressing-free.
  • Walking: walking is better but still deliberate and slow. Also starting to understand shortened hamstring – leg sometimes feels heavy to lift off the floor, so I shuffle sometimes.
  • Pain medication: no longer taking pain pills regularly – just pop a couple pre-physio so I can get the most out of the time there or if I’ve been doing a lot of leg movement
  • Physio & swelling: exercises are going well and don’t really hurt anymore. Swelling going down but still present in pockets so continuing to ice (and wishing my op had been in summer when ice would have been more welcome).
  • Exercises: Made it to a coffee-shop solo – with one crutch and 30 minute walk instead of 10 but FREEDOM. I want to get back to yoga so badly but I don’t believe I’d be able to get on and off the floor at this stage, so I’m going to have to be more patient.
  • Stairs: slowly introducing one stair at a time for going up – do it for a few steps then revert to two feet on one step.
  • Sleeping: still seems just as irritating on the incision. I feel like I’ve made no progress on this front.
  • Range of motion -struggling to sit in a normal chair for long but most likely because I’m short (5ft) and my feet don’t touch the floor so all the weight it on my knee. Impacting my ability to work more than I thought. I’m finding my dictation software useful for writing this blog article. More awkward for emails.
  • Bathing – Bought baby bubble bath and gave my knee a good soak in the tub – bliss (even if it was a challenge getting in and out of my slipper bath).

What I’ve been told to expect/hope to achieve in the next few weeks

Week 4 – I need to figure out a better way for sitting at a desk or with a laptop on my knee so I can get more work done.

Week 5 – return to physio for the next ‘phase’. Not sure when I will be added to the lower limb class, but I’m hoping around this point.

Weeks 4- 6 – I should be able to return to driving – this will be liberating, but I need to get physio approval first because I’ve injured my ‘clutch leg’ and without that approval my insurance will be invalid.

Week 6 – return to see the surgeon for a check up. Fingers crossed, I’m hoping that’s going to be the all clear on the surgery front – no infection, the graft seems to be holding and no problems with the nuts and bolts or whatever it is they put in my knee (ribbons?) to keep everything in place

Week 10 – rough estimate of when I’ll be able to look at activities like running on a treadmill. That feels both very far off (impatience) and also much too soon (confidence) at this point.

We’ll see how it goes.

Updates on my ACL repair – My recovery timeline

Week 4

I’m one-day shy of my month-anniversary of having the surgery – where did the time go? Anyway, here’s how I’ve been getting on.

  • Dressing and incision: Jeans still irritate a bit but I’m able to wear my softer ones for hours. At home I’m still in my leggings.
  • Walking: friends and family are starting to comments that I’m walking better. I feel quicker, too. I have a bit of a limp but I’ve given my crutches back and feel confident enough to get around without them.
  • Pain medication: it’s now rare for me to take any pain pills.
  • Physio & swelling: I’ve STILL got pockets of swelling. Sigh. Told by physio to continue the exercises but I can add in leg press at the gym. I’ve also been told to step-up the bending and push my leg a bit harder on that front.
  • Exercises: The bike at the gym is feeling a lot easier although I’m completely over the exercise a couple of times a day regime. It’s only 5 minutes here and there but it’s feeling like a chore. On the plus side, I got back on my yoga mat which was a huge personal success. My practice is still very modified but nice.
  • Stairs: I’m also now walking both up and down the stairs normally though it’s still an effort and I need to be careful (no hot cups of tea in hand when going down!)
  • Sleeping: I’m finally starting to feel like I can sleep more normally. My incision can still feel a bit tender under the covers but nothing too unbearable.
  • Range of motion – I’d say I’m probably at about 160 degrees and judging from my physio, I could do more so that’s my focus for the next weeks.
  • Bathing – Absolutely back to normal 🙂

Week 6

By week 6 I was starting to get around more, although the stairs in my flat (the steep Victorian kind of stairs) were still causing me bother. I also got back on my yoga mat for some gentle stretches (avoiding knee and kneeling positions) and it felt good.

I was, however, getting frustrated with what seemed like slow progress. I took myself to a travel conference in London, at Excel (which is almost bigger than China inside, or so it felt to me at the time) and it was way too much for my knee.

In hindsight, two things were going on: i) my expectations surrounding recover speed were too high and ii) I’d gotten a bit lax with my physio routine (after 6 weeks, finding time to do the exercises can feel like a bit of a chore and because I was mostly mobile, I tricked myself into thinking things were fine without the exercises).

Round about week 7, I had a check-up with the surgeon. My knee was x-rayed and the surgeon did a bit of pulling and pushing to check the strength of my knee. All seemed to be well. I was expecting to be discharged at this point but apparently that doesn’t happen until month 3, which was a bit of a glitch for me because I was planning a trip to Italy as well as a larger trip to Southeast Asia around week 16. This meant I would have to declare my ACL repair as a pre-existing condition on my travel insurance, and I was worried about the cost. However, as it happened, ACL repair is so common that provided you only have physio to do, they will add it to your insurance with no extra cost.

All seemed to be going slowly but surely in the right direction. And then I had a physio session and things went to sh!t.

After an intense half hour that included time in the gym and some hands-on manipulation, I woke up the next day and could barely walk. My knee had ballooned, I was in pain and I got my trusty walking cane out because my knee didn’t feel stable enough. This state endured for the best part of 2 weeks and I was frustrated at hell at being set back.

Week 8

ACL repair
My incision scar at week 10 – it’s healing really well.

Returning to the physio in pretty much the same state as I’d been at week 6, I explained the set-back and my physiotherapist told me is was highly unlikely it was anything he’d done (I remain sceptical). I left the session with a few new exercises (lateral stepping) but wouldn’t let him touch my knee.

In week 8 I took my knee on a trip to Italy (Sardinia). I took my walking stick as a precaution, which turned out to be a good thing (I was visiting a lot of hilltop towns for a work project). With 16 hour days and a lot of time on my feet, I needed to ice my knee at least once if not twice a day and I was back to taking pain medication at least once a day but my knee held and it was nice to feel a semblance of normal travel life.

However, my physio exercises and gym visits had pretty much disappeared and by 9 weeks I had a long hard chat with myself. To recover, I needed to do my damn exercises and I needed to make them a priority. So, after my Sardinia sojourn, I got back into a physio routine. Every morning I did my exercises. Sometimes I did them at night, too. I returned to the gym (3 times a week), squeezed in a few 15 minute yoga sessions at home, bought a static bike and gym ball for while I was watching tv/not able to get to the gym.

And, d’you know what. It worked.

Week 12

Where to go in Sardinia - castelsardo
A picture from my trip to Sardinia in case you’re sick of looking at my knee!

Thanks to my increased commitment to the physio exercises, by the time I went for my 3 month check-up, I was walking close to normal, my knee felt strong and I was positive about my recovery prospects. As a hyper-mobile person, my knee still hasn’t reached full extension but I’m confident it will get there. My physiotherapist felt happy with my progress and I (almost) skipped out of the session.

At this stage, a few more exercises were added to my routine including jumping, lower squats and use of a theraband. I was also told I could start to add some running back into my routine (I’ve been on the treadmill twice since then and although terrifying, I was able to get in a few minutes worth of running). Weirdly, kneeling and crouching is still a long way off (month 6 apparently).

Week 16

ACL repair week 16
Incision scar at week 16. I’ve had a couple of days of light sun on my leg. I’m very impressed with the healing.

Around week 15, I boarded a long-haul flight to Southeast Asia for a long-term (2 or 3 months) backpacking trip through the region (but with a suitcase, not a backpack this time). I booked the trip before my op and, to be honest, I’d vastly underestimated the length of the recovery process.

Still, I have gone ahead and so far (10 days into the trip), my knee is holding up exceptionally well. I need to be more careful than I would normally and there are some activities I simply am not chancing – just yesterday I said no to a bit of cave exploration because of the risk of the uneven floor. However, I’m able to have some gentle swimming, and I’m walking a lot, which seems to be strengthening my knee. I also let a Thai masseuse have a gentle ‘go’ at massaging my leg and knee, to great success.

My legs get tired a lot more quickly than they would have before on the same trip, but mostly because I’ve lost a lot of fitness and those first few days pounding the streets of Hong Kong were agony. However, things have improved dramatically in under 2 weeks. I still have some knee swelling, made worse by the tropical heat, but I’m icing every few days, which is helping.

My scar is also looking pretty good. I kept up with bio-oil twice a day until just before I flew to Asia and now I’m going to let nature, the sea and the sun (with sunblock over it) do the job. If any ladies are interested, it’s apparently not advisable to have the site of the incision waxed for 12 to 18 months post op! My waxing lady did a great job of going around the scar and then painstakingly tweezered the rest of the hairs out one by one. Thanks to some lingering numbness, I didn’t feel a thing.

My physiotherapist has advised that I should limit my trip to 2 months instead of the original 3 months I planned – this is so I can start my lower limb class and avoid setting myself back. At the moment, I plan to see how things go. I have a theraband with me as well as the list of lower limb class exercises (a 6 week course I took after I damaged my knee) and I’m going to see if I can build those sessions in as I go along. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Six months after ACL surgery

I’m not great at listening to medical advice and so I ended up staying in Asia for that 3rd month instead of coming home and resuming my PT. And, guess what, I’m glad I did.

Why? Because I pushed my knee far more than I might have done in the UK in winter. Here’s the program I ended up putting together for myself:

  • daily walking and some gentle hiking (round about month 5) – it was so much easier to get out and move about in the warm weather and with plenty of things I wanted to go and see, I didn’t struggle with ‘gym motivation’;
  • weekly and sometimes twice weekly massage. I trust the Thai masseurs more than I trust my own GP and despite the fact that some of the lower leg massages were painful, this did a lot of loosen up my muscles, reduce the fluid on my knee and, I think, even reduce the thick scar tissue. Obviously you should take medical advice before getting a massage and I totally did that :/
  • lower limb class exercises – it turned out that I got to fit this in about once every 10 days rather than weekly but I quickly realised a hotel room served perfectly well as a gym (trampette =hotel bed, FYI) and I wasn’t really missing out on doing the classes back in the UK;
  • small amounts of running on a running machine if my hotel had a gym. I did this only a few times;
  • swimming – in the ocean, with the current. I was very careful at first, especially because of the uneven surface underfoot but within a few weeks of going away, I was gently hopping in and out of boats;
  • yoga – this was the hardest part for me because there was so litle bend in my knee at first but slowly and, I admit, a bit painfully, I have gotten much of my bend back (more on that below). I practised for about 15 minutes around 2 times a week, sometime less. However, it was the week-long yoga retreat that really helped.
  • I saw a physio once while I was away just to make sure I was on track to recover fully and he said I was doing well.

Arriving back in the UK on 31 March, within a few days I had my first catch-up with my physiotherapist since before going away. I was a bit nervous but as it turns out, he was very pleased with my progress.

I have now been medically dischaged – yay! However, because I skipped the lower limb classes, I can start them now and I am taking the NHS up on the offer even though I can now walk and run pretty well.

8 Months after ACL surgery

I’ve been back in the UK for about 2 months now and, to be honest, my recovery has hit a bit of a brick wall. I’m not exercising as much and I’m not as active because – well, work and life have gotten in the way. I have, however, resumed my lower limb class at the gym. By starting the classes so long after my op, I’m pleased to be able to work on really strengthening my knee (standing up from chair on one leg while holding a 5kg medicine ball will do that). I’ve also got the all clear to run outside.

As for the overall health and strength of my knee, here’s how it is at the moment:

  • Strength – so, so, so, so weak still. I didn’t realise that as a pair my legs feel strong but my physio asked me to hop on my injured leg and I could barely get myself off the ground. Clearly I have much work still to do on rebuilding the muscle;
  • Pain – I no longer have pain but I do get the occasional ache – usually when I’ve been static moreso than when I’ve been mobile!
  • Flexibility – as a yogi, it frustrates the hell out of me that the physio program does nothing to increase flexibility – it’s all about strength and stability. Thanks to yoga in Asia, I am now able to cross my legs, get in and out of a crouch position (if I’m careful, but it hurts and I can’t stay there for long) and kneel on all fours (yoga table top position). I’m still struggling to sit back on my haunches but I am practising. Yoga is definitely the key to getting back my flex.
  • ‘Risky’ activities – I’m still giving all challenging sports a wide berth. I did a short hike up Great Orme in North Wales on grassy terrain and it was fine and after way too many beers to be making sensible decisions, I learned some Romanian dance moves in Romania a couple of weeks ago. My next challenge is getting off the treadmill and out onto the road running. I did hit just under 5k on the treadmill and recovered well so I will take it slowly and return to the cushioned runner if I need to. Many people do return to risky sports around now but I’d like to get more strength in my knee muscle before then.
  • Popping and clicking – yep, my knee pops and clicks pretty frequently. Again, this corresponds with how inactive I’ve been. It doesn’t hurt and I’ve been told by my PT and surgeon that it’s fine. It just feels DISGUSTING. I’m hoping it will ease over time.
  • Hyper extension – like with flexibility, there’s little in the physio session designed to get my hyper-extension back and even now my injured knee doesn’t push back as far as my healthy one. However, I understand from the physio I saw overseas that this will happen as my knee muscle strengthens.
  • The scar – I’m really impressed with my scarring. Of course, you can see it but more compared to those first pictures post surgery, I’ve very happy with how minimal it looks.

ACL Surgery scar 8 months (1)

12 months after ACL surgery

It’s been a year since I had my surgery and there are many days when I don’t even  feel like I had the operation at all. However, there are still days when I certainly do feel like my knee is not quite as good as it was. Those days have gotten fewer over the year but I’m not at the point where I can report that I’m back to full knee strength and I’m not sure I will reach that point. Still, my knee is a lot stronger, sturdier and stable than it would have been if I hadn’t have the surgery.

My range of motion is actually pretty good. I can cross my legs, squat, kneel down and I’m working on sitting on my heels for increasing periods of time. I attribute this decent range of motion to yoga which I try to do at least 2 to 3 times a week.

The other physical activity I was very keen on before my ACL surgery was running and I’m pleased to say that I’m back to running outdoors with only a small fear of hitting potholes. My knee doesn’t give me any trouble when running but I’ve certainly taken a hit in terms of my overall fitness and the strength in my leg muscles has dissipated. For that reason, my progress is slow, I’m still largely running intervals and my aches post run are worse than they used to be. But this could also be down to the fact that I am now in my 40s. I used to run 10ks and I’ve got back to 5k running with hopes of increasing my distance slowly over time.

Being completely honest, I could have done more in the past year to strengthen my knee – I’ve gotten out of the habit of going to the gym and using the weights and I know that my knee would have been stronger for it.

I do still have some hideous clicking and crunching sounds, though none of them hurt. My knee sounds like screwed up paper when I go from a full squat (sitting on my haunches) to standing e.g. when crouching at my under the counter fridge and I then stand up. The internet tells me this might be my scar tissue breaking up. I hope so because the noise makes me feel queasy to the point that I loudly shout ‘crunching’ when I stand just to cover up the noise. A bit awkward when I’m in public!

The clicking comes and goes and usually happens after I’ve been pushing my knee with exercise. I’ve got to the point where I stopped worrying about it and it goes away on it’s own. Again, I don’t feel any pain.

My scar is barely noticeable in my opinion and I never give it a moment’s thought.  I am convinced the bio oil helped with scar reduction though, of course, I can’t prove that! My numbness has also gone.

ACL repair surgery scar

My office is located in the attic of my apartment, which is two flights up from my front door. The other day I caught myself running down the stairs, taking the corners at speed to catch the postman. I’ve come a long way in 12 months and to be able to run and twist and turn without too much fear has made the surgery and all the pain and dressings and physio completely worthwhile.

2 years after ACL surgery

Acl reconstruction surgery 2 years on

I never imagined I’d be writing a 2-year update on here. Mainly because I thought I’d be back to full strength. Unfortunately, I’ve recently taken myself back to physio. Don’t worry – I think these are my individual quirks rather than being indicative of what you can expect in 2 years. However, as this post has become popular and everyone has shared their own experiences below, I thought I may as well tell you what’s going on with me.

My two favourite forms of activity are outdoor running (10k but I’ll honestly settle for 5k at this point) and yoga, as well as some hiking. The problem is, I’ve never been able to get back to full strength with running or yoga. I also shy away from adventurous hikes because my knee isn’t as strong as I’d like and I worry I’ll have to be helicoptered off a mountain.

The issue with my running has been pain in my opposite hip any time I get back into a regular (3 times a week) routine. It’s probably not helped by the fact that I now only hyper-extend in one knee. This has had the effect of a few weeks on, a month or two off with the running and I’ve not been able to push through a 5k without hurting for days afterwards.

Yoga has been more of an issue with cracks and pops and, about a year after surgery, development of a noise in my knee that sounds like scrunched paper every time I squat and stand. Cue: vomit.

After spending a few days in Verbier recently, watching from the sidelines as people hiked and biked and climbed, I decided it was time to see a sports physio (private rather than NHS) to find out if I can do anything to progress from basically functioning to returning to sports without fear.

The problem was, I had back to back trips (Verbier then Malaga) and didn’t book an appointment. Then, while I was doing yoga on a hard tiled hotel floor room in Malaga (with a towel under my knee, but still, not smart in hindsight), I felt a jolt of pain in my ‘repaired’ knee.

I returned home and, with yoga on the shelf, I decided to give running another try. I’d bought some ‘Miracle balls’ (more on that above), which seemed to be working for my hip pain, so I was feeling more confident than I had in a while.

About a week into my new running routine, frustrated at my entire lack of fitness, I decided to do some hill sprints. Yes, I know what you’re thinking but we’ve already established that I don’t always make the best decisions in the moment. (Does anybody?) Plus, muscle memory isn’t always your friend. I felt a tiny knee twinge as I tackled the hill but nothing more. In fact, I was quite upbeat when I got home…until I hit the shower and noticed a huge egg shape underneath my knee cap, next to my incision scar.

Dr Google told me I had a swollen bursa sac (fluid in one of the sacs that protect the knee). Mostly likely irritated with the yoga and fully developed by the hill sprints. In fact, bursitis is commonly known as housewives’ knee because it’s usually triggered by kneeling (seriously, someone needs to update that for 2018, but I digress). It’s also common in runners. So, bingo. Full house.

While getting bursitis was not the best thing – rest, ice, compression and elevation, hello my old friends – it finally made me book that sport’s physio appointment I’d been thinking about.

And that’s when I found out I have two issues with my knee that are probably hampering me getting back to full knee fitness.

First, my knee isn’t properly aligning. It buckles inwards slightly when I move it. I suspected this right at the beginning of my recovery, watching it when I was doing leg presses at the gym, but I must have gotten used to it over the past two years because I thought it was now ok. With incorrect knee alignment comes pain when I run, difficulties in yoga and that lack of confidence and strength in my knee.

It also seems to have caused the screwed up paper noise when I crouch – more professionally known as crepitus – which is probably caused by my tendon/ligament catching on my knee bone. Nice.

The good news is, both the misaligned knee and crepitus can probably be fixed through the right combination of strengthening exercises.

But not until my bursitis has gone down. (Dr Google was right, btw.)

What next? For the next three weeks I’m on a routine of rest, which is already driving me insane. Then I’m off to China for a couple of weeks. There will inevitably be some pavement pounding and I’ll be visiting the Great Wall of China. But I’m no longer going to include the extensive hike I had planned in the Longji rice terraces (excuse me while I sulk for a bit). I’m hopeful that by the time I get back, I’ll be ready to start on the realignment and strengthening exercises. I’ll let you know.

The main point from this 2 year update (and my biggest lesson): if you’re still having trouble, go and see someone. Just because you’ve had ACL reconstruction doesn’t mean you necessarily have to put up with a bad knee.

2.5 years after ACL surgery

I’ve written a new post about the 15 things I would have done differently during my recovery? You can find find my latest post here.

3 years after ACL surgery

Hiking in Curacao about a week after dengue fever. Smiling but crying a little bit inside.
About one week post-dengue, hiking in Curacao. Looking healthy, all things considered (but dying a little bit inside).

I’m still updating this post because my recovery is ongoing. I had a chat with a friend about this the other day. His question was: 3 years after surgery, surely everything is done now? My answer was yes. And no.

Within a year I’d say I was 80% recovered. It was enough to work in an office and go to the gym, for sure. However, I wasn’t prepared to let go of the remaining 20% recovery. Call me a perfectionist (you won’t be the first) – I wanted to get fully back into every yoga posture I’d ever done, even the kneeling poses, and push my practice deeper. I wanted to do more than just go the gym. For those reasons, I pushed and persisted and I got results.

By year 3 my legs were stronger than they were pre-surgery. My running was coming along, entirely pain free and I was deeper into my yoga practice than I’ve ever been. 

I achieved all of this by getting an amazing physiotherapist who I met every 6 weeks and who tailored my physio exercises according to which specific muscles were strong and weak (quads, hamstrings and glutes). She got great long-term results by forcing me to slow the f&ck down with my running and how fast I’d been escalating my distance. I did my exercises 3 times a week. I was so diligent that I recall lying down in my hotel room in Milan, my head next to the toilet so I could use the bed base to do my elevated bridge exercises. 

But then things kind of fell apart. Just after my 3 year ACL anniversary (anyone else not celebrate this?), I got dengue fever and it  wiped me out. Two months on, I’m still recovering my day to day strength and my physio program has promptly fallen apart. It doesn’t help that I’m on an extended trip in Central America and I’m struggle to do my physio work (finding the space and motivation are a challenge). I feel like this steps forwards, steps back approach has happened a lot during my ACL recover but what I’ve taken away from the last year of hard work is that almost 100% recovery can be achieved (at least for me) with the right guidance, dedication and work.

If you are struggling, I’d recommend starting by finding a physio who works for you. 

So, that’s been my ACL recovery experience. Have you have an ACL repair? Did you have a different recovery experience? Let me know in the comments below. Also, happy to answer questions if there’s something I haven’t covered.

468 thoughts on “ACL Repair – Timeline of My Recovery (With Pictures)”

  1. Hi Jo,

    Firstly I’d like to echo what many people on here have said already and thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry it’s been such a rollercoaster for you!

    I’m at the 7 month mark now and I’ve been feeling pretty downbeat about my progress. I regained full extension pretty quickly but I don’t yet have full flexion. In fact, sitting back in a kneel (with hands supporting) is very painful and I can’t maintain it for long. My physio routine is yet to include any jumping & I haven’t done any running to date. In fact, I’ve recently switched physiotherapist and my new program is less intense than the previous one, so it feels like a step back.

    Worst of all is the crepitus. As with your experience, it doesn’t hurt but it’s a very unpleasant sound that discourages me from most exercises. The knee “clunks” when entering and leaving full extension, as well as when climbing stairs – this wasn’t even the case when I was first able to tackle stairs and is a more recent development. Extension from 90° sounds like a crisp packet rustling!

    My latest physiotherapist is trying to focus on lessening the crepitus and all I can do is hope it works! Of course, the current pandemic has also prevented me from having a check-in with the surgeon to confirm that nothing is amiss.

    Reply
    • Hi Richard, my whole recovery was characterised by that feeling of one step forward, two steps back but I did find that overall slowing down the recovery made for better results in the long term. I’m afraid I still have the crepitus but after a couple of years I have come to get used to it. It’s horribly unnerving at first but over time just becomes part of my knee movement. I have used yoga to slowly build up my kneeling. Again, it took me a long time and even now if I don’t include kneeling in my day to day for a while, the motion gets stiff. Keep at it and well done on being proactive with the physio. This will help for sure in the longer term. Come back and let me know if your physio can solve the crepitus!

      Reply
  2. Based on my earlier comment, coming up to two years post now. Just checking in on your progress, which sounds like it has been good. I was fortunate enough to be offered an ACL recovery class at my local hospital in Lewisham (London, England, for international readers), which I did religiously for about a year. It really helped with my recovery and getting confidence back in the knee. They assessed progress by doing hop tests, measuring how far you can so a single and triple hop, and one legged squats (how many – feel the burn!). They discharged me when I could go further and do more on my injured knee (which was my right knee, so was probably the stronger one pre-injury). I’m back to running at the sort of volume I managed before the injury, though not perhaps the speed. Still tentative running on steep downhills but that is more psychological than anything to do with perceived instability. My main take-out from the whole experience is that it you have to take your recovery seriously and put the hours in to get back to normal. I know that’s the message you’re putting out there and I hope everyone that reads this takes it on board. Thanks again for telling your story. There’s lots of information out there about ACL recovery but when I had my injury, it was the stories of recovery that I sought out and yours was one of the first, and best, that I found.

    Reply
    • Hi Nigel, thanks for coming back and sharing your experience and echoing the slow and steady progress message. I’m so pleased your recovery has been good! Sounds great you had the specific physio. Good luck with the ongoing recovery!

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  3. I too am 3 years post ACL surgery (surgery was February 2017). I’m still actively working with a physio. I had a very rough start with pain derailing my rehab essentially month 3 to month 11 where I was went home to rest that entire time as per my medical team. Finally getting the right rehab guidance at nearly a year post op (turns out full rest was NOT a good idea with a healing tendon), then 2 long hard years of consistent weight lifting trying gain strength in order to get back to my previous life. I made it to intro to running last summer finally, but then more niggles started to crop up and derail things again. Still so much more to go, pain doesn’t allow me to speed things up at all. In the lines of “too much too soon” I have this knack for getting all sorts of secondary injuries that put a stick in the wheel of progress too. But I keep going, I’m going to get there!

    Reply
    • Hi Shannon, I was experiencing the same problem and turns out, for me, it was a combo of doing too much too soon and not having the muscle strength there to support my activities like running. I ended up going to a PT and getting a dedicated program for my recovery/exercise and it was a game changer. Good luck with your recovery.

      Reply
  4. Hi Jo,
    Thank you for sharing your story! I have read it multiple times while finally making my decision to have surgery. I partially tore my ACL and meniscus 2 years ago in a soccer injury. After multiple PT sessions, an MRI and 2 visits with my orthopaedic surgeon, I have finally decided to take the leap and have the surgery. I pondered this decision for as long as I did because I was actually starting to feel a lot better and didn’t think I needed the surgery. But most recently I’ve been experiencing pain in other parts of my body for which my doctor believes is caused by the instability in my knee. I am 44 yrs old and am not ready to give up all of the things I enjoyed before the injury. I’ve been active most of my life mostly with sports such as soccer and basketball and although I may never play them competitively anymore, I would still like to know that I can play the odd pick up game without the worry of re-injuring my knee. And I no longer want to be worried about falling on ice and want to be able to go for long hikes and enjoy the rest of my active life with my kids. My surgery is booked for April 3rd and although I’m freaking out a bit about the recovery, I think I can do this. Reading your blog and the responses from everyone else has helped me put a lot of thought into this decision and I am very grateful! Here’s hoping I emerge victorious in the end! Thanks again!
    Rita

    Reply
    • Hi Rita, well done on making the decision that’s right for you. The recovery can be a long journey but it’s completely do-able and worth it for long-term stability. Good luck with the surgery. Come back and let us know how you get on!

      Reply
  5. My name is Oscar and I have surgery in a week. Finding your article was bittersweet. I found what you wrote to be very specific which is exactly what I was looking for. However, I really didn’t think recovery would take that long. My accident happened over a month ago and I feel like I’m Already getting better every day and now I have to go back to being as bad as I was right after The accident. I was Actually hit by a drunk driver while driving an electric scooter. They’re small and you find them in downtown areas here in the states. But anyways, now I have this huge surgery even though I feel like I’m almost back to my old self, except for sports and running. I’m very active as well, I’ve done Mini marathons and tough mudders to help me stay in shape. Your blog got to me because I got bit by the travel bug as well. I’ve hit Southeast Asia, Central and South America in the past year alone. I had plans to leave December 19th for southern Mexico, then slide down to Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador, but now I have surgery that day. It’s a Christmas miracle. Your article made me think of all the crazy things I’ve done in my travels. Hiking in Chang Mai, Thailand, swimming in caves in Puerto Princesa, Phillipines, and actually I’ve hiked volcanoes too, In Ecuador, I’m not sure where you did. I want to go back to being the free, careless soul I am but after reading all these it’s a little scary. I guess as a whole I’m pretty scared. Im only 25 and the idea of never being 100% again is a little bewildering to me. I’m also a clean freak to a point and am terrified of how showers/restrooms are gonna work. I’m used to showering twice a day sometimes. BUT ANYWAYS, I’m glad I found your blog, it was exactly what I needed to be mentally prepared. I’ve always done things without thinking, like a renting a motorcycle and taking my own road trips in multiple countries, but this I cant stop overthinking. Not working is also deteriorating to my mental state, I feel useless and keep gaining weight. I wish I could fast forward to a year ahead as fast as I read your article. Glad I ran into this on my 3am paranoia google search and I’ll definitely explore the rest of your page. Great read!

    Reply
    • Hi Oscar, sorry it took me so long to reply – I went and got dengue fever (because apparently I like all manner of injuries while I travel). It was lovely to read about your travel adventures. I’d say try not to worry. Recovery is a long stretch (though many people recover really quickly) but it doesn’t mean you can’t do things alongside. I went on a 3 month trip to Asia a couple of months after my surgery. And right now I’m about to head back into Panama. My knee still isn’t 100% but I’m 100% not letting it stop me travel. Slow, steady and carefully but you can keep travelling and you can get back to good health. Also: screw drunk drivers. Grrrrr. Hope the surgery went well.

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  6. HI. thanks for your details comments. I had ACL surgery just over 2 years ago. I am generally happy with the surgery, can do full gym, outdoor running etc. But what I have noticed for about the past month or so , is every now and again, i’ll be walking then suddenly there is a short sharp pain in the knee, almost as if a ligament has slipped or something. If I then bend my knee backwards and straighten it out again it is back to normal. But I am just wondering if this is something normal or whether I should see someone about it?

    Reply
    • Hi Edward, my physio and doctor has always told me the best way to decide what to do when I feel pain is treat it (RICE) and see if that makes it better. If it does, I’ve probably just overdone the exercise, which you can do with any part of your body. However, sharp and severe pain sounds like a warning bell, unrelated to exercising too hard, and I would go and get it checked out (and do keep in mind I’m no medical expert!). Good luck and hopefully a bit of rest will fix it!

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      • Hi , i have very important questions, i am about to do a ACL surgery and i think i will give up from sports do i risk reinjury ? and after 6 months can you do daily tasks like sitting or driving the car or mabye transporting some heavy shopping bags?

        Reply
        • Hi Casli, every surgery and recovery is different. Assuming your surgery and recovery goes well, you should be able to do many sports. I was driving within a few weeks. The same with carrying shopping though I was a bit careful at first. Good luck with the surgery.

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  7. Thank you so much for this blog! It really helped me to realize the magnitude/reality of the surgery recovery time. I tore my MCL and partially tore the ACL skiing when I was 27. Two months with a leg brace, PT and eventually back to running, hiking, diving, skiing etc. Fast forward 25 years: during a ski fall in January 2019 tore my ACL completely. Diagnosis delayed for a month since I flew next day for a work commitment and hobbled around for three weeks in my old brace with a lot of pain and swelling. MRI when I returned revealed the extent of the damage, but I did PT religiously and was back to walking/jogging (flat) by end of April 2019. Now the big decision – to do the recommended surgery or not. I was torn since in theory I was now mobile but had terrible stability on uneven surfaces and inner knee pain on any type of hills. Also I had had a rather nasty complication in the past during a ‘routine’ outpatient procedure for something totally unrelated so any type of surgery is terrifying to me. Went ahead with the surgery just over a week ago in the hopes that I will get back to the outdoor activities I love like skiing, hiking and running eventually. I had an ACL donor graft due to my age, repair of both the medial and lateral meniscus, and some bone ‘punching’ to help stimulate cartilage growth since worn down to femur. The surgery and in/out time was surprisingly fast. I’m from UK but living in USA. Surgery was 2 hours and I was leaving to my house within 30 minutes of the surgery with a leg machine. General anesthesia, no staples, soft intubation. First 36 hours great – hahaha – until the surgical meds wore off, however I’m managing to control most of the pain with OTC tylenol and ibuprofen. Surprisingly my biggest issue has been back pain from the sitting/lying (everyone tells you to rest but it’s just SO uncomfortable – and at night with the inflate/deflate leg sleeves to prevent blood clots even worse!!!). Your blog really helped me prepare for the realities of the limited mobility and try to organize things to make life easier in advance. I had my follow up appointment yesterday and am confined to a further 7 weeks on crutches, with locked leg brace and only ‘toe touch’ weight bearing but I start PT tomorrow so trying to stay positive!

    Reply
    • Hi Caroline, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m forever impressed by the range of different approaches around the world and also the resilience of the people going through this long recovery process. Let’s just hope it gets you the stability you need. Come back and let us know how you get on! Good luck with the recovery!!

      Reply
    • I had AcL tear and meniscus tear 6 months back.my doctors suggested rehabilitation with physiotherapy instead surgery. So I went to 2 months physiotherapy. And was almost pain free till recently . I am having sudden pain and instability in knee.please advise me whether to go for surgery or continue with physiotherapy .Also doing surgery for AcL reconstruction and meniscus tear would be worth. Kindly give advise

      Reply
      • Hi Dheeraj, only a qualified medical professional can really give you proper advice on whether surgery is good for you in your situation. Personally, I’d go back and see if there is a specific reason for the pain. Sadly, the instability is a risk you’ll have unless you have surgery so it’s up to you to consider whether that’s a risk you can take (I suspect it’s less of a risk if you’re not very active and more of a risk if you are active?). Good luck and I hope your doctors can help.

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      • Just go for it .you will feel stresse do it or not asking for advice gitting different answers.
        It’s happened to me I had surgery one week ago
        Some improvement no pain

        Reply
    • Hi Caroline, I tore my all at 20 and had the surgery in 1986. fast forward to today
      (35 years later) and this surgery has served me well. I am active and have played ice hockey and skied ever since. now in 2021 Im 54 and wondering if I need too get the all redone with the technology of today. Im searching for people who can tell me what to do. I still play hockey 3 times a week and that feels fine but snow skiing hurts my knee after 1-2 hours. I have shortened the length and weight of my skis to compensate but that only helps marginally. Im 54 and plan to be active with my grandkids all growing up. do you know of a resource that discusses others who had similar types of situations?

      Marc in Canada

      Reply
  8. Hello Jo –

    I am 72 hours into post-op. I injured myself during a volleyball game; I was setting a ball (on turf) in a pivot motion, knee turned with foot planted – loud pop, intense pain, instant swelling and no stability – textbook ACL full tear (with some meniscus tears too) I think I am the first volleyball injury on this blog. Injury occurred on 8.16.19 and I had my surgery on 9.16.19 – exactly one month after… I was surprised how long it takes on NHS; I live in the US, and have private insurance so I was able to move everything along pretty quickly. One benefit of waiting longer is I can see where more pre-rehab would help with recovery (increasing muscle strength, etc.) But, I wanted it over so I took first available date. I did the pre-rehab 3x per week and continued the exercises at home to help prepare me for surgery. During surgery I received a nerve blocker shot in groin area, IV in hand, and had the tube down throat for anesthesia – not sure if I had a catheter. I agree the time “in” to time “out” took much longer. Arrived at 9:30 am and got home around 4 pm (I did have a 45 min drive each way.) Making the decision to have the surgery was difficult since even after 1 month of re-hab, I was walking great and I was able to get back to life – knowing I was going “under the knife” felt like I was taking 10 steps backwards even though in the big picture, I knew it would help me in the long run. I am a pretty active person, I play volleyball weekly which includes league play; I enjoy playing pickle-ball on the weekends, and even though I am not an avid skier, skiing is something I do enjoy a few times during the season especially around New Year’s with friends. And, when on vacation, hiking is definitely a go to activity. Making the decision to have my ACL repaired was partly based on those activities, and I agree with Jo, the idea of having something disconnected kinda freaks me out. I knew the recovery would be hard based on everything I researched and reading this blog (which helped quite a bit – thank you). Now that it’s done, and I am 4 days post op, I have so many emotions flowing thru me…one hour (yes, I judge by hours right now) – One hour, I feel like “I am doing good”, then the next hour I am feeling depressed like my leg/knee will never be close to the same. I am typically an optimistic person but something like this really tests your optimism. My first post-op ortho appt is 9.26.19 which is 1.5 weeks after surgery; eager to find out next steps. My first PT appt is 9.30.19, eager for that too even though I heard that is where the hard work starts and can be painful. I am also told may be 12 months before I can be back on the court again which totally sucks but I guess I will just take it day by day. Taking that comment into consideration, the funny thing is, that was my number one concern before surgery (playing sports again, being active, etc.) but now that I am so immobile right now, my biggest goal is to just get mobile for general life (walking, shopping, going out with friends, etc.) In fact, I am concerned that once this is all said and done, if my fear of repeating this injury will hold me back from the things I love – being almost 50 I am sure has a little to do with that versus being in my teens. Sorry for the long post – feels good to vent. Hoping you have worked thru your “hiccups” and are 100%! Time for me to get back to RICE and I know this group understands that doesn’t have anything to do with eating, lol! A few side notes: my pain was manageable with the block and meds – I never experienced the horrible pain some have described, my doctor has me non-weight bearing for 2 weeks so on crutches for that time until my appointment, and my leg is pretty stiff – slight ROM. I am hoping I can achieve more ROM after PT starts – I am following doctor’s orders even though some experiences above started ROM much earlier – but everyone’s situation/injury may be a little different so following the orders. Best of luck to everyone!

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing, Melissa. I definitely agree on the steps forward and back between injury and surgery. Once you get mobile again, it’s hard to force yourself backwards but I also agree it was worth it. I hope the recovery is continuing. Come back and share with us in weeks and months how you’re getting in!

      Reply
  9. Oh Jo, I wish I hadn’t found your blog and read so many of the comments. Now I’m getting the jitters about the procedure. In June I was standing on a stool cleaning above the door. As I reached, the stool tipped and down I went. My left foot took all my weight square against the floor, so hard that my left knee twisted and collapsed on impact. I heard and felt the pop and knew I was done for. Couldn’t put any weight on it. Knew it was an ACL. The next day I went to urgent care to demand an MRI. The young P.A. was dismissive and sent me for an xray instead, even though I knew this was an ACL issue. It then took a month for my physician’s office to put in the referral for the MRI which confirmed a completely torn ACL. Ortho surgeon couldn’t even see me until end of August and soonest surgical date is November, which means my holidays are toast. I’m 60. He said he’ll be using a cadaver donor for the repair, that there will be three incisions, and I’ll be in a brace walking with a straight peg leg for weeks, and on crutches. He said it’ll be a year of recovery and that I must have home help for at least two weeks. (I don’t have any support system at all.) I’ve been taking Ibuprofen every day, keeping a compression sleeve on it, elevating with ice many times every day, and using a cane. I’m a disabled person with many health issues, but my knees were perfect. At least I knew I had legs that would take me where I needed to go. Now my dog hasn’t been walked in a month. Reading what you and others went through, I’m truly terrified. The surgeon says that surgery is non-negotiable. You referred to this as your “new normal.” I’ll be going through this alone over the holidays in the winter. I appreciate your candor…

    Reply
    • Oh Rachel, I’m so sorry to have added to your distress. Here’s some positive things to focus on – your knee can get better, and lots of people in here have had more positive experiences than me. I would also add that I had very high standards for my recovery. I wanted to climb volcanoes and surf and do yoga. All those day to day activities like walking a dog were much more quickly and easily recovered. Weeks and months rather than a year. I also live alone and though I had a few people nearby, I did most of it on my own. It was scary at first but absolutely do-able. I don’t know what your other health issues include but if they are the kind of thing that can benefit from more physical exercise (some health issues do), you may end up improving more than just your knee if you commit to a good physio programme? There are people out there who can support you both physically and emotionally – ask for help. We all need it sometimes! And you can message me any time you want to either in this group or privately through email or any of my social media pages. There’s every chance your surgery and recovery won’t be as bad as you’re currently imaging. At least that’s my hope for you <3

      Reply
  10. Two and a half weeks ago, I had an ACL surgery on my left knee. Two weeks after surgery, the doctor told me to sleep without immobilizer (brace). So I have been sleeping on my sides without brace as I only get sleep lying on sides. As I bend my knee in the sleep at times unknowingly, I experience swelling and sprain in my knee when I wake up. I am a bit scared if I will tear the installed graft or mess it up for worse. Any answers???

    Reply
    • Hi James, the best thing to do is get your knee checked out. I think swelling and pain 2 weeks after surgery is pretty common but best get an expert to check it. I used to put a pillow between my knees to give extra support, which might be worth a try…

      Reply
  11. Hi – thank you for this blog. It helped me a lot to learn what to expect. I am 46 years old and tore my right knee ACL and meniscus (in two places) on Dec 22, 2018 and had surgery on Feb 12, 2019. I will not bore you will all the details of my experience, but will just highlight a few milestones.
    1. I was surprised at how little pain there was. I felt sore two days after surgery once drugs wore off and took pain killers twice. Never needed since then. Only high dose of ibuprophen.
    2. PT was the key! I started it a week after surgery in person, three times a week and also on my own every day, multiple times a day. Eventually it became two times a week, then one and at 5 month mark I was cleared to stop.
    3. I bought a stationary bike and about a 6 weeksinto it, I began riding it. Also used exercise bands.
    4. I went back to the gym at 10 week mark and resumed my HIIT exercises. I avoided box jumps and squats, other than that doctor encouraged to do anything else.
    5. I am now 7 months in and feel stronger than ever. I pretty much can kneel all the way and have no pain. Just a little sore on the side of my knee but doctor said it should go away at around one year mark.

    I am very physically active so it was important for me to get this done and get back in shape. Look forward to skiing this winter!

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds like all that PT and persistence paid off for you – well done at sticking to it. Good luck with the skiing!

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  12. I had my ACL reconstruction of my right knee 4 weeks ago on 2/ August /2019 .The first 2 weeks were miserable .The knee was swelled alot .I did regular physio therapy exercises as guided by the physiotherapist. while it started bending 90 ° by now, I started walking using a stick sometimes while walking ,straightning and bending my knee I feel a popping sound out of my knee I am really worried about this !!!

    Reply
    • Hi Hemant, the advice I’ve been given is – popping + pain = go and see a doctor. Just popping, no pain = normal. I have the last one ALL the time. It’s disgusting but apparently nothing to be worried about but hearing that from a doctor is always better so why not call your physio?

      Reply
      • Hi Jo,
        Thanks for your blog and all the info. Apparently the popping and crunching sound is Arthritis.
        I fell off a ladder in July and tore my ACL completely. I was laid up with ice etc for about 6 weeks and after about 2-3 months all the swelling went and I can function fine now although can’t completely bend or straighten my leg, however it’s much better than before.
        Anyway I’m on the NHS waiting list but now considering not proceeding as I don’t ski or play competitive sports.
        I’m back in the gym squatting and deadlifting as before nearly and really now don’t want to have surgery, they said it only helps 10-15% and that arthritis happens in 10 years either way, however they did advise me to proceed as I’m active. A bit confused, I’m 47 and otherwise fit and healthy, but it seems such a hard decision! Thanks for all your info and sharing your story.

        Reply
        • Hi Tycho, it is a hard decision with definite pros and cons. I think it ultimately comes down to mindset – I know I would have limited myself if I didn’t have the surgery. If that won’t play on your mind and you can do what you need to, why have the surgery? I am however interested to know why your surgeon suggested having it repaired. I’m active and my surgeon said it was up to me and didn’t suggest one route or another. I wonder if there is some activity you’re doing that could benefit from the repair? I’d ask him/her that…

          Reply
  13. Hello im Brian im only 21,i just had surgery on my left acl and also i had a tear on my meniscus which they fixed both and i was wondering how you were able to start putting pressure on both legs within days ? My dr told me i can only do “toe touch” on my leg left and to not walk around with out my crutches for 6 weeks & he said forsure 6 weeks no doubt about it before i start to put pressure on my repaired leg ? Does this sound normal ? Also i have stitches instead of staples and im kind of scared/neevous since i see alot of people got staples instead of stitches . Hope you reply and its great to see that your happy that you got the surgery 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Brian, I’m glad you’re through your surgery ok. It’s worth saying that my ‘putting pressure on both legs’ was more of a hobble with a hand on the wall for security. I was very nervous but it was ok and gradually I built up but it took weeks of hobbling. I would definitely say go with what your Dr says. From the comments it looks like everyone gets different advice and it could be because although we had similar injuries, the surgery might be different. I would say you got lucky having stitches! I had some stitches removed recently (different injury, ha ha) and I felt nothing 🙂 Best of luck with the recovery.

      Reply
    • Hello
      That’s too funny I had ACL reconstruction surgery lateral meniscus and meniscus surgery also on August 28 to Day is 3 weeks post OP no stitches and I been told I can start to put weight on it toe touch like a egg under my foot . I have not shorewed since surgery.

      I am off Pain meds except Ibuprofen .
      Good luck

      Reply
    • Hi Brian – I saw your comment and my doctor has told me the same thing. Just light balancing pressure if needed but basically no-weight-bearing for 2 weeks; possibly 4 weeks. I just had my ACL surgery on Monday 9.16.19 and I am in the “guts” of the first few days which is hard. I wanted to mention that I had a cadaver ACL versus my own hamstring and I thought maybe that was the difference between Jo, you and me? Did you have a donor or use your own hamstring? I was also impressed with Jo’s comment about already being at a 45 deg within days and putting pressure on when I am suppose to keep my leg straight with no pressure. I am probably feeling the same as you and wanting to make sure I am not delaying a recovering or getting stiff knee. Any updates would be appreciated – thanks! Melissa PS (Jo, your blog is very helpful, I have been reading it several times since my surgery last Monday. How are you now?

      Reply
      • Hi Melissa, happy to help. It seems every doctor has a different strategy. In hindsight I wish I’d had equal work on bending and strengthening. My physio focused on the former. It might be worth asking your doc if you can get bending. I can tell you it did no hard, as terrifying as it was so I don’t see how it would be different given we’re all (probably/mostly) human?!

        Reply
  14. Hi Jo, hello everyone than you, for this wonderful detailed blog i have gone through the ACL reconstruction 6 weeks back and now started walking without any support of walker or crutch’s. Iam still doing my physio exercise and reading this helps me to be patient and keep going positive .Iam 30 year old and after those horrifying pain full days now i feel good about the decision to go for the surgery .

    Reply
    • Hi Nithin, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad you feel like you made the right decision. Good luck with the rest of your – patient – recovery!

      Reply
  15. Thank you. I can now measure my progress thru your actual experience. It’s hard to find month by month “what to expect”.
    I fell 11/2018 during a pretty aggressive round of tennis doubles. Later, examining my shoes, I noticed wear on the side—which slid then grabbed, causing me to torque then sever my ACL, tear both meniscus, fracture my tibia and bruise my tibia plateau so bad that it is into my bone marrow. I had the choice of living with it or repair. I had surgery 8/7. So far, I’m doing okay, using a cane, wearing a brace and will start PT tomorrow. I know this will be a long recovery but by your report at least I know somewhat what to expect. I plan on finding a good massage therapist, too. I delivered mail for 30 years and have never had any issues with my knees. I’m 62, so I’m hoping my recovery won’t be hindered by my age. I am taking a recovery vitamin from a good company and vegan protein. *I used an ice machine my first week, 24/7, which is worth every cent.
    Also at least 4 oranges every day for first month. I have had both shoulders replaced. The ice machine and the oranges I give credit to—I was back kayaking in less than 3 months. I also added cayenne pepper to my smoothie for extra help with inflammation.

    Reply
    • Cayenne pepper is an old trick in my family – and one I didn’t think about for myself. Thanks for the reminder. I wish you a very speedy recovery.

      Reply
  16. Hi Jo & everyone, Thanks for sharing all your experiences in this wonderful blog.

    I’m Krishna Koneti ,staying in SAUDI ARABIA , M-38 years old.

    I had a My left Leg knee injury (18/07/2019) while I’m playing shuttle badminton.
    Knee Twisted while smashing a shot. Get Heavy pain and Mild swelling immediately.
    I took anti-inflammatory medicines, cold compression. but after 2 days also not able to walk properly so I went to Hospital.
    Doctor referred for X-ray and MRI. And he also prescribed anti-inflammatory medicines for 2 weeks.

    MRI Report:

    MRI report came after 3 days,.

    My physical status 23/07/20189)
    Having mild pain while bend my leg.
    Swelling : reduced 90% only mild swelling.

    After seen MRI result Doctor said that my ACL Tear ,need to go for surgery.

    But in MRI report not mentioned 100% Tear, so I went to another hospital for second opinion.

    Doctor seen same MRI ,and he checked physically with Lachman test, MC Murray test, pivot test methods , he said Negative result ,he also given anti-inflammatory medicines and he said need 3 weeks rest ,and some of exercises I need to do and not I should not bend my knee.

    28/07/2019 status:

    After 3 weeks today (08/08/2019) I went to hospital for repeat consulting .

    My physical status (08/08/2019)

    Having mild pain while 100 % flexion only bend my leg.
    Swelling : reduced 100% . no swelling.

    But I’m not able to walk like earlier.

    So doctor having on doubt he called HOD of orthopedic department for suggestion.

    HOD came he also seen my MRI ,he also done some physical Lachman test, MC Murray test, pivot test methods Positive result , he pulled my leg knee 100% flexion that time I get pain while bending , he said my ACL tear, need to go for surgery.

    Doctor given report 08/08/20189)

    Now I’m having confusion need to go for surgery or not?
    At present I don’t have seviour symptoms of ACL tear like, swelling, seviour pain , instability while my leg lifting . only not able to walk properly like earlier and 100% not able to bend flexion my knee .

    Can you please guide me, if I’m not going for surgery , I can manage or better I need to go for surgery. Please advise me. Because I’m working in OIL& GAS Refinery as an Operator so I need to climb Ladders and need to walking on stairs .

    Actually after read your full story , I’m mentally string go for surgery but only thins getting nervous and I’m having doubt whether really required surgery or not?

    Thanking you
    Regards
    Krishna Koneti.
    Saudi Arabia.

    Reply
    • Hi Khrisna, I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with getting a proper diagnosis. I think that is the first thing you need to do – find out for sure whether you have a fully torn ACL. And the only way to properly know that is through the MRI. Surely, they can take another look at the scan? From there, you will be able to decide. As I understand, most doctors will only do surgery on a full tear and if you don’t have one, you might not need to make a decision. If it is torn, personally I would go for surgery if I had a job where the safety of my job required leg stability. But let’s not jump ahead. Push for the proper diagnosis and decide from there. I hope they are able to tell you! Good luck.

      Reply
    • Hi Krishna
      I got the same injury the same day like you
      I made surgery this day acl repair not reconstruction you can do this surgery if your ligament is in a good state
      In France you can do that espcially in Rennes clinique Saint Laurent
      Not expensive at all
      Nono from france

      Reply
  17. Safe to say that reading this have absolutely freaked me out to the max. I’m having surgery in a months time to get my ACL and meniscus reconstructed. I’m nervous about reacting to the anaesthetic and pain medication (have a fear of vomiting), I also getting very shaky and feel like passing out when I get hungry and just genuinely scared about the pain after surgery. ?

    Reply
    • Oh no, sorry! I think reacting to the medication is pretty rare. Take snacks for afterwards and focus on your picnic post surgery. Sorry to have caused you distress. Hope the surgery goes well. It will be over sooner than you think. Good luck!

      Reply
    • Hi – do not be discouraged or afraid. I am glad this post is here as it helped me a lot to know what to expect. My experience was a bit different. I am 46 years old. I also completely tore my ACL and also had double tear in my meniscus on the right knee. I had surgery on February 12th of this year to get knew ACL put in and meniscus trimmed off. I can write a lot about my experience, but I will tell you that I had very minimal pain and only had to take strong pain meds twice; the rest of the time just prescription Ibuprofen. I am not big on taking any meds, so that did nto last long either. I began PT immediately and did it for 5 months. I was driving at exactly 2 week mark and off crutches at 4 weeks. After that I had to have my knee locked in a brace until 6 weeks were up, but I begged the dr to let me unlock the brace because I could not take my leg being straight any more! At 2 months after my surgery I went back to my HIIT gym and did PT exercises there and avoided intense exercise such as running, squatting and jumping. I began doing those once I was cleared from PT at 5 month’s mark. Now my knee is almost back to normal. I do a lot of running, squatting and box jumps. I have not played any contact sports yet and look forward to skiing this winter. Overall, my knee feels very strong, but I do still get occasional pain, after I sit for a while or when the weather changes. If I were to attribute my recovery to one thing, it would be physical therapy and exercise. I did a lot of it and it included swimming and also biking. I would imagine it would take longer for someone who is not active.

      Reply
  18. It’s been so helpful reading this, seeing if there is anything similar to what other people have been through like me. I had an injury to my knee for three year all from just running and falling over. The hospital told me it was nothing really, just that it was a female thing that we naturally lock our legs straight then making weaker. Never had an extra until my knee popped out on my like 20th time. I had to wear a massive knee brace every single day for years.

    I had acl ligament reconstruction on my left knee and the surgeon had to take a piece of my hamstring to use as the new ligament.

    I am only in my 5th week of recovery and keep being told im doing good but i dont really know. Yeah i could put full weight (in-easily) on my 9th day after my op but struggling with bending my knee. I don’t know if its me just being wimpy with the natural pain of acl recovery but its just hurt. Exactly 5 weeks to the day i did my first full turn on the bike today (only with the seat really high tho) and didn’t really know if it was good or not with the time period.

    Like you, i read all sorts, even watched on YouTube what they were doing (RECOMMENDED NOT TO WATCH-FREAKED ME OUT) and everything i read didn’t happen. I was expecting a massive scar down the centre my leg and a massive brace. I think its just the American way.

    Staples-your right they killed. I knee how it felt when taking stitches out after having my key hole before my acl, can’t really feel still because your knee is still numb. I had never had staples before, i didn’t even know i had them until i changed my dressings (no one told me anything after op on how it went and did). Staples and stitches are always meant to be removed 7-10 days after op. Mine was only removed after 15. It may not seem alot but makes a difference. I already had a loose staple from day one but when she was taking the rest out, they had inbedded themselves and i was lucky for my skin not to start scaring over. Look, i have a high pain tollerance because i have many painful piercings but it was worse then them, leaving me in tears for a couple of minutes.

    3-5 days after will be the worse, so much discomfort, lack of sleep for 1-2 weeks. BUT, a week later it just eases off the volume of pain and gets tollerable and manageable really.

    If you have a tair in your knee, acl is painful yes, and everything i have said sounds discouraging but it is well worth it. I needed it to allow myself to allow for the police, dont let it get you down like it did me. What’s a couple of weeks and months to the rest of your life.

    Hope this helped, wish i sore this blog before my op to calm me down into realisation. Any questions just ask.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Crystal, as I keep saying, I’m no expert but the pain and slow recovery all sound normal to me. I’m glad you’re on the mend, even though it’s slow. Also: ‘a female thing?!’ Tell your male doctor he might want to update his Victorian Guide To Diagnosing The Other Species (Women) ;p

      Reply
  19. Hey Jo,
    I have one question: You mentioned hearing poping noise from your knee, although non-painful but annoying. How long did it took for that noise to go away or do you still hear it?

    I am in my 7th month of post rehabilitation and I too hear this poping noise quite frequently and it is non-painful. But I want it to stop completely as it is very scary!

    Reply
    • Sad to say I still have the popping but apparently it’s nothing to be worried about provided there is no pain. I still wince when I hear it but imaging the noise as the air bubble that it is, I feel a lot less worried about it.

      Reply
  20. I noticed you had a scar in front…did they use your own graft or one from a donor? If not a donor and it was from your own body that means longer healing although some stats say that using your own tissue rather than an allograft gives stronger replacement ACL but there isn’t enough real data on this assumption. I am having surgery in a couple months myself for both ACL (using donor graft) and meniscus removal (damaged portion hopefully). If they have to repair the meniscus that means 4-6 weeks no weight bearing (uggh) but most likely will just be removal of the damaged which means weight bearing a day or two later with crutches.

    I think my surgeons will use stitches not staples which might help. I knew about the oxygen down throat but not the catheter….I guess that is standard during all surgeries but not sure why unless while under your body cannot hold whatever fluids are left in there and they would like not having urine during the operation…I agree…I want that sterile as much as possible too.

    Did you ever use a walker too? That probably would have helped getting around much easier than crutches.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Obviously, everyone is different, takes pain differently, etc. but good to see the progress you went through to give a general idea.

    Continued strengthening and healing to you…cheers!

    Reply
    • Hi Michael, I was ‘lucky’ enough to have a bit of my own and also a bit of artificial graft because my own hammie wasn’t fat enough! They didn’t know this until I was under the knife so I guess they just went with it. They repaired my meniscus and I was able to weight bear pretty much immediately – I’d check with your doctor, although my repair just required a small stitch. I didn’t use a walker, just the crutches and I was down to one crutch and then hobbling without within a couple of days. My mum had a walker (different injury) and it depends on the terrain and space as to whether crutches are harder or easier. After a little while I found them easy enough. I wish you every luck with your surgery.

      Reply
    • Hi JJ – it still pops and crackles but my physio said so long as there is no pain, it is fine. Just a case of getting used to the disgusting noise!

      Reply
  21. Thanks for an informative blog, really useful to read the things they don’t tell you pre-op.

    I had a 70% bucket handle meniscus tear repaired 5 months ago & the ACL hamstring reconstruction is in a few days. They couldn’t do both together as the tear was so bad.

    My first NHS physio appointment was 3 months (!) post-op on the NHS but luckily I’m a PT so comfortable knowing rehab exercise progression. Unluckily I’m a PT so will be out of work for a while until I’m mobile & can build clients again.

    I’ve been a total teacher’s pet with the rehab & prehab so they scheduled the ACL much earlier than planned – the exercises make a HUGE difference so, although interminably dull, I plan to do the same again after the reconstruction.

    They’ve told me they’ll check the meniscus & may need to restitch, also may need to harvest hams from my other leg if the ones on the injured leg are too short or skinny. Have you heard of this?

    Thanks to you, waxing is booked & honey & lemon is at the ready. It’s the little things that make all the difference 🙂

    Wish me luck & I wish you continued success with your rehab too.

    Reply
    • I do wish you the best of luck – it’s both lucky and unlucky being a PT but Ive no doubt you’ll be back on two knees again very soon! Yep, get that wax done! Hope the op goes well 🙂

      Reply
  22. I gave up yoga classes after 20 years because of acl reconstruction. I continued with my own practice doing what felt right for my body but my body moved so differently post-op, not only my knee, and classes were distressing (pain) and pointless because I had to modify most of the poses. I was a bit upset because the surgeon told me I would have 100% recovery, before the op, when I asked him what I should expect to be different. But when I asked him post-op when I should be able to fully bend my knee and what was the best way to achieve that, he said, “why would you want to bend it any more than you can now?”. I said, “so I can kneel and squat and do child’s pose at yoga” and his reply was, “ I hate yoga! It’s so bad for knees“, and basically told me to give up on trying to kneel or squat or stretch my quad. Great! So does that mean, Just don’t go to places without European toilets? Of course you find a way eventually to cope, and I found karate which was full of people finding ways to do it around their physical impairments. 3 and a half years on and I can squat in a twisted manner. I was diligent with Physio but it wasn’t smooth sailing and I’m still hoping to one day get my fitness back to where it was…..it’s always 2steps forward 1step back

    Reply
    • I’m upset with your physio telling you you’d have 100% recover – that kind of skews your opinion on your recovery. I completely agree with the 2 steps forward and 1 back. But I can tell you as someone who refused to quit her yoga mat, there’s every chance with gentle and regular practice, you can get at least further that you are now. It was only when I started committing to yoga 3 times a week (just 30 gentle minutes at home) as well as 3 physio sessions a week that I started to make real progress. Me of 2 years ago would be staggered at my yoga progress after physios had told me ‘this is how it will be’. Start with a modified practice and do it regularly until you see an improvement in those safe poses. Then progress. I has honestly taken me years but there are only a handful of postures that make me worry compared to pre-opp. Good luck!

      Reply
  23. Hi – thank you so much for this great article – a real life saver! I injured my knee while skiing in April – I’ve been skiing for 42 years and this is my first ever injury! I had a ‘popping’ sensation and then my knee was completely unstable so had to get down the mountain on one leg. The in-resort doc took x-rays and came to the conclusion that I had damaged the meniscus. When I got back to the UK I dutifully went to see the GP who equally dutifully arranged an MRI which finally took place a month later (!). The MRI showed bone bruising and a ruptured ACL, which took both me and the GP by surprise! Today I went to see the knee specialist – he didn’t look at my MRI but performed a number of manual manipulation tests on me and said that I should go for physiotherapy instead of surgery. I told him my main goal was to be able to ski again (I’m 45, I don’t think it’s unreasonable?) and he seems to think I will be able to with just physio, that the ligament is, in his opinion, knitting together. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I’d be most grateful.

    Reply
    • Hi Caroline, a friend of mine bust his ACL skiing and still skis without surgery. He is young and pretty fit so I suppose it depends where you are with your leg muscle – are they/can you get them strong enough to compensate. If your doc says yes, I’d probably give his advice a shot before going under the knife. Good luck.

      Reply
    • If you’ve had an ACL tear I would strongly recommend surgery. I had a grade 2 and 3 tear to my MCL and ACL and was told all would be ok with physio – 2 years later the ACL popped just out of nowhere doing nothing strenuous. I’ve just now had surgery and the surgeon who is top of his game- (private) told me I’ve been dragging a dead leg and should have had surgery 2 years back. An ACL cannot heal by itself without interventional surgery and even though you can strengthen and resume normal activities, unfortunately it will eventually go! If you do it later down the line you would have damaged other areas in the process and may suffer from premature arthritis and could require a knee replacement op. Wish I’d done it sooner- glad I’ve done it now.

      Reply
  24. Hi Jo,
    Thanks so much for your article and for everyone chiming in. I tore my ACL fully probably 8 years ago playing soccer at 25, after gradually tearing it over the years beginning at 16. Two kids later and now 32, I feel I am finally in a place in my life where I could go ahead with surgery if desired. But that’s the question! It seems from reading everyones post that the knees never go back to how they were pre-tear regardless of the recovery process. I am currently able to do most activities I want but would ideally like to be able to play the odd pivot sport around our house with my two boys as they grow up. So I wondered whether an acl/knee brace would allow me to feel comfortable doing so? Have you heard many accounts from folks that decided not to go forward with the surgery?
    Thank you kindly,
    Merran

    Reply
    • Hi Merran, I can’t comment on the not having surgery. I do know my physio told me braces don’t do much apart from remind you to be careful. At the same time, pivot sports are still a risk post surgery. I get the impression it’s all about strengthening your surrounding muscles if you want to pivot. Have you spoken to a PT about your options for pivot sports without surgery and the difference in risk of fall/injury?

      Reply
  25. Hello everyone. I’m a little over 3 months post surgery. I’ve been experiencing a slight pain right below my kneecap when trying to straighten while walking (I dont have full extension quite yet… I’m at about 175°). I still walk with a limp. I’m just wondering if I should be concerned about the pain or if other people noticed this too?

    Reply
    • Hi Madi, my various physios and doctors have always said that pain and your knee locking up is usually the thing to get checked out. I have lots of aches and stiffness and popping and crunching sounds but they apparently are less to worry about. Personally, I’d get it checked. Good luck.

      Reply
  26. Thanks for sharing your experience. I just got the results from my MRI and it turns out that the subtle knee instability i have been feeling is because I have a completely torn ACL. I am still in shock and I am trying to decide if having the surgery is the “right” thing for me.
    Should I limit myself or should I commit to a year or more of what you went through… It doesn’t help that the doctor says: “At your age (37) you could leave and keep most of your quality of life

    Reply
    • Hi, it is a tough one. I have no regrets about my surgery. Sure, my knee isn’t perfect but I have the confidence that it won’t go from under me. I was 39, nearly 40 when I had my surgery if that helps…

      Reply
  27. Hi Jo & everyone, Thanks for this wonderful blog. I read it before getting my ACL surgery done and it helped me in many ways. I am writing this on my 5th day after my ACL surgery. I had torn my ligament while playing baddy at the club. Feeling sad for missing baddy for last 3 months. I know there’s no luck for almost next 8-9 months. I am waiting to get on my leg and jump for a smash. Currently on brace and walker. Sleeping in the night is nightmarish experience. No problem with bathing since i have waterproof bandage on my stitches. My doctor said no to physio and advised me with few exercises to follow for 10 days and go consult him after that. I think i am doing pretty well with exercises though it hurts a lot especially during leg raises and knee bending. My doc told me to bear full weight on my operated leg while walking using crutches/walker. He even asked me to climb up/down stairs with full weight. Need your advise on what kind of yogasanas can be performed and when should i start yoga. Thanks again for sharing your experience!

    Reply
    • Hi Krishna, I’m no doctor but I definitely disagree with the no PT advice. Perhaps you don’t need it now but if you want to get back to those smashes, you’re going to need your strength back. What I never anticipated is that I’d need to do strengthening of muscle groups I’d never focused on before. PT was invaluable for educating me on this and I wish I’d done more sooner. In fact, I wrote an update post about which you’ll find on the site. Yoga, I used the Yoga Studio app and created my own ‘knee’ routine. Basically lots of stretching but without putting too much weight on my knee (kneeling or lunges) until I got those asanas cleared through my physio. Good luck with he recovery and come back if you have any more questions!

      Reply
  28. Hi Jo, really descriptive blog post you got here. Kept me going and gave me a heads up on what I’ll be expecting for the upcoming weeks post surgery. Thanks for taking the time to write this. Speedy recovery!

    *I’m currently on week 3 post surgery

    Reply
  29. I had a meniscus tear and had Arthoscopic surgery and 3 days Post OP I was rear ended on an off ramp and snapped my ACL. I went back in and had ACL and Meniscus Reconstruction. I was 37..It was a long recovery…within a year I was back in for a adjustment of a screw that was causing pain and instability, my knee giving out from under me..and litterally pushing calcium deposits their way up to the skin and break on sides of my scar causing it painful to touch and my shin beneath my knee has been numb to this day.. it took some serious work to work the screw back out .. he said was near impossible but managed to reset and I was back on another road to recovery.. unrelated to knee directly but I had to have a Lumbar fusion 2 years after my reconstruction..and it did not help my knee.. I have never gone back to my active life.. no more softball.. no more running.. couldnt be active and fun with my adolescent girls at the time.. And the last few years have been a battle.. weakness.. swelling.. quite alot pain everyday.. constant calf and foot cramps like the worse Charlie horses ever.. cracking.. popping.. constant therapy and custom fit braces (3 customized in 10 years) time for another one!! It’s been a long 20 years…
    TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY AND MIND!!! BE SAFE.. BE SMART.. DO YOUR RESEARCH AND CONSIDER EVERY OPTION BEFORE GOING UNDER THE KNIFE..

    Reply
    • Oh Crystal, I’m so sad to read this – you really do sound like you’ve had the roughest ride. I haven’t had a fraction of your troubles and I still get fed but so I can only imagine 🙁 I would say keep at the movement – gentle yoga (even chair yoga) and some walking. Have you got a PT helping you? I wish you every luck because it really sounds like you could do with a break about now!

      Reply
  30. Just wanted to say thank you so much for this! I had a torn ACL, MCL and detached meniscus (ski accident). Had the ACL allograft repair in late March. It’s so helpful to read your notes – I too love travel, yoga, hiking and running and am getting impatient with the process but I can see I just need to be very careful and do the PT!

    Reply
    • Skiing seems to be the culprit so often – sorry you injured yourself 🙁 I hope the PT has been going well? I’m still getting there on my recovery (years on!) but it’s progress always in the right direction. Good luck with your recovery!

      Reply
  31. Hi I’m from malaysia and i just wondered around the web about acl and stuff and stop by to read your blog it’s quite great act for people who’s preparing for their reconstruction surgery. I’ve just done my surgery about a week and i think maybe your doctor use different kinds of methods and stuff referred to where they study and stuff like that bcs my doc said that the surgery have diff methods. If u guys want to be sure about how they surgery goes before the real deal you should ask the doctor and make things clear and if you really want to continue outdoor activities then you should proceed the surgery and be patient with the healing process. Don’t rush the healing process never ever ever ever rush it or you’ll regret it. Anyhow great story indiana jo love it?

    Reply
    • Hi Zainulariffin, thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, the surgeries seem to differ widely – as does different doctor’s advice! Great tips 🙂

      Reply
    • Being nervous is normal. Try to focus on the reasons you’re having the surgery. You’ll get through it and then the physio will be a chore but it will be behind you. Good luck with the surgery (that’s the easy part because you’ll be asleep!)

      Reply
  32. Thank you very much for this article, I feel sad you had to go through all of this, I hope you’re doing alright now, I’m 21 from India and I also had ACL Surgery August 2017 and with the same graft as in your surgery, I used to do Parkour, Freerunning and Martial Arts, so after the surgery, it’s been 21 months and my knee is still unstable. It’s really depressing because I want to get back to Freerunning, I have no swelling or any other visible fault in my knee but my leg is still atrophied, I’ve been strengthening it and I can do pistol squats from my operated leg, it’s still not as strong as my other leg but I know I can make it stronger, the only problem I’m facing is that my knee is not stable, which is a huge problem, I know if I try any Parkour move, my knee will again dislocate, I also do running at very slow pace, like 8 kms per hour, that’s because I’ve gained so much weight and I also love running. What do you think about my knee instability? If you can help, then it would be so great. Thank you very much again.

    Reply
    • Hi Akash, have you had your knee checked since the surgery? It’s supposed to fix the instability. It would be good to first find out the cause of the problem and then try to fix that. I hope it is just muscle strengthening. Are you taking time to work on just the weak leg/knee – sounds obvious but I was letting my good leg take the burden when I was doing weights which wasn’t really improving my bad leg at all. I hope you’re able to solve this and get back to your sports…I’m off to Google Parkour!

      Reply
      • Thank you a million for replying me, oh, Parkour and Freerunning, it is just moving around the urban environment with acrobatics and gymnastic moves. And yes, I’ve been working on my operated leg alone most of the time and I feel it’s getting stronger but I’ve also been trying so many kinds of exercises to gain stability but something’s just not right and I didn’t get any check up after the surgery but I’ll go for it soon. Thank you very much for your wishes and I also wish you that you go back to your adventures too.

        Reply
  33. Hi, I too have a knee injury story. Jan2016 first day of a 2wk ski holiday in Banff, Canada, I did a stupid little turn and fell uphill, I didn’t hear the pop everyone talks about but was glad my instructor years ago had taught me to side slide, which I did for approx 3miles to get off the hill. After a few days swelling continued as did the pain so went to see physio who advised seeing a Dr in Banff who straight away said I had ruptured my MCL & ACL & torn meniscus (he sees these injuries all the time) I spent my holiday walking around Banff with my leg in a brace whilst my partner went off to ski every day(thank god the hotel had a pool), on the plus side I was flown home first class(needed to keep leg elevated- thanks to the insistence of the Scottish Dr in Banff). UK, NHS experience not so good initially, they would not MRI, said physio would do the trick, not convinced I’d torn my ACL, only after I return with swollen knee 7mths later (energetic dancing at a BBQ) and insisted on MRI, then had exploratory surgery in Nov 2016, confirmed ACL gone!! They were reluctant to repair, only when I said I wanted to ski again did they agree. With NHS flu crisis, op finally done June 2017, all staff, surgeons, physios, nurses could not have done more (thanks to the amazing NHS). After initially being told should wait 6mths, then 12mths then 18mths to ski again I finally went skiing Jan 2019 (with 2 leg braces and stayed on greens & blues) no falls, no pain, after initial trepidation (effectively 4yrs since skied) had a fab holiday, I’m 51 and a bit over weight, skiing is my only sport, just do a bit of gardening (guiltily feeling I should do more), my knee and the whole of my left side hurts most days, still can’t couch or sit back on my knees but can do a lot, hope to ski well into old age. Thanks you’ve inspired me to book a physio session I’ve been thinking about for a while. Whilst attending many physio classes I swapped many stories, young & old repair at different rates, one did stick with me, a woman heard the pop & knew she had ACL injury, quick thinking & before swelling she had MRI scan & repair op on holiday, holiday insurance would not pay for scan unless it proved injury so she had to gamble on paying the bill, her recovery was very short and back to full fitness quickly. I’d heard this from physio in Banff that if can get repair done before swelling takes a hold that recovery is much better, if not you need to get muscles ready for op to support knee, also essential pre-op exercise. It’s a long comment but it’s been my life for over 3years and it does get you down, Doctors tell you different things, one best described my knee will be like driving without shock absorbers from now on. Good luck to everyone in their recovery.

    Reply
    • Hi Helen, that’s quite a journey you’ve been on with your knee. I’m so disappointed that your initial experience with the NHS wasn’t positive. It goes to show that these things really are hit and miss depending on who you see on the day. But I’m glad you got the surgery in the end and got back skiing. I confess I have removed that sport for my list entirely but I was never a skiing fanatic in the first place. It’s an interesting point you make about having surgery quickly and it makes sense. Thanks for sharing your story.

      Reply
  34. Hi Jo I just wanted to say a massive thanks for you writing this as, like you, I have only found doctor websites that aren’t too realistic when considering long term recovery and pain. I have had a very bad year after not listening to my doctor I turned a slightly bruised knee into a significant tear in my ACL, two torn cartilage as well as something else with a strange name I’ll never remember? I’m only 15 and had my cartilage surgrey about a month and a half ago and I wasn’t really worried since it wasn’t too major but I need for that to heal before I can have my ACL surgery which I’ll be receiving in July hopefully. I am trying to not think about it because I only want to cry. Due to my injury I will be missing another netball season which has so many opportunities for me, I have already had to miss a Scotland netball trial. I am quite scared at the thought of such a long term recovery but your blog has really lifted me up and thank you so so much for sharing your experience. I am a very active person too so it’s good to hear I’m not the only one who doesn’t always listen to my doctors!

    Reply
    • Hi Ella, so sorry you’re facing double surgery and double seasons out of a sport you love. It’s so hard sitting on the sidelines watching everybody with their healthy knees run around without giving the matter a moment’s thought. Doctors tend to be the people we listen to after we’ve broken something but perhaps next time you (and I) will pay a bit more attention to what they say. I hope you find another activity to fill your time and distract you while you recover. Yoga has been my running replacement and I’d have been lost without it. Good luck with the extra surgery. PS: I’m intrigued to know what the something else with a strange name is, ha ha!

      Reply
  35. Hello ! Thank you for this! I am 7 weeks post op (hamstring ACL repair) and i woke up one morning to my knee quite swollen and scared i re-tore it! After reading your testimony i’m less scared of that prospect now as you had a similar experience, so thank you for sharing and putting my mind at ease.

    Reply
    • Hi Matt, every time I feel a twinge near my knee I’m terrified that I’m going back into surgery. More often than not, it’s an overactive brain rather than a bigger issue with my knee. I hope the swelling has gone down and that you’re back on the road to recovery.

      Reply
  36. Hi! I’ll cut straight to my questions
    1. did that floor bike really work? i’m not allowed to flex past 90 degrees b/c of wear my meniscus stitch was done. but I also wanna build my muscle and such
    2. can you list some yoga you did and what phase/month in your recovery you were?

    Reply
    • Hi Tru, over and over my PT told me to do bike work and in the end it was the thing that really helped with my range of motion in the early months. No doubt the bikes at a gym will be better than a floor bike (better quality and more stability) but if you’re just looking to do little and often on. the bike, floor bike is a good solution.

      I was back on my yoga mat at week four. However, that comes with the caveat that I did a very restrictive practice and I was familiar with yoga before my surgery. I used the yoga studio app and created my own workout. Message me if you want me to email it to you – I’ve not tried this before so I’m not sure that it will work but I’m happy to give it a try Otherwise, I have taken a list of yoga poses to my physio and got her to cross off the ones I shouldn’t do, which I think will be a much better option for you.

      Reply
    • I am 15 months out from my ACL recon with my patella tendon. My knee still pops…but it’s at the knee cap. If I overwork my knee, I feel it at the patella tendon. It ends up
      Aching. Maybe it’s an issue of patella tracking.
      I have full ROM but have not aggressively lifted weights with my leg. Maybe increasing quad strength will help with the patella issues.

      Reply
  37. Hi everyone and thankyou Jo for the 2 year update it’s really good and hope you get back to yourself soon. I posted here last March and just wanted to share my progress one year on from ACL recon and meniscus repair. I had my full repair on 21st March 2018 and looking back progress was slow but steady. Lots of ice and doing all the movement and strengthening exercises religiously while I was off work (12 weeks) really helped but once I went back to work I couldn’t do these to the same frequency as at home so I lapsed a bit. I got a lot of walking in between August and October and then added in some light gym work and short running bursts (this was still painful right until before Christmas)
    Come January I was so fed up with my lack of fitness and the weight I had gained that I took the bull by the horns and started spinning again, some treadmill running and body pump classes. I’ve tried to be dedicated and now am spinning 3-4 times a week, one or two body pump classes and try to get in a 5k if I can and I’ve lost 16lbs so far so I’m really happy. My knee clicks and grinds, sometimes the tendons get stuck and then snap back into place and mostly the front right hand side of my calf is tender and numb but even with that it’s 150% better than the two years I had no ACL. I do have the knee falling in but I’m doing lots of quad strengthening and leg lift machine to help that. I just wanted to tell everyone don’t give up. It’s a long slow process and there may be hiccups but stick with the exercises and don’t give up.

    Reply
    • Hi Cate, Thanks for coming back to give an update. Congrats on the workout routine and weight loss – I know that would have required a lot of dedication, pain and frustration but you got there. So, well done!! I’ve also recently managed to lose about a stone which had crept on post-op. I managed to do this with a little and often exercise regime, that’s involved a lot more bike and weight work instead of the cardio I was consistently failing at. I keep meaning to try a spin class but the idea of it terrifies me. That said, you’ve inspired me so thanks for that.

      Reply
  38. hi everyone
    I’m 42… and wondering if anyone did try the oportunity to live with a completely torn ACL?
    I was injured 1 year ago…and still not decided if I must operate or not..
    I have no pain in walking, cycling, light runing, hiking, moderate gym…but ofcourse not football, basketball..etc
    I usualy have a desk job, with some walking and driving…but the fear of gradually degrading my knee over time,surrender being old…to admit no young any more – the idea that you can’t have a quick sprint if you need it (for fun or not) is disturbing..

    on the other hand…

    Beside the fear that something can go wrong during surgery…i have a feeling that total rehabilitation for my age is very dificult..and not sure if I will be better then actual state 1 or 2 long years of post rehebilitation…
    seems very dificult to decide …also doctors recomand both ways “depending on life style”

    Reply
    • Hi Adrian, I think there are a few commenters in here who have lived with an ACL but it sounds like they all went on to eventually have the surgery. If it helps, I had the same dilemma and the same advice from the docs. Here’s my opinion having had the surgery – if you’re not in pain and you can do the activities you want, then try to live with it for a year or two and see how you get on. I don’t regret my surgery at all but a) it doesn’t get you back to a fully healthy knee (that ship sailed when you injured yourself); and b) the idea of not being able to push yourself is a worry, at least for me, post surgery except now my worry is rupturing the repair. Recovery is easier the younger you are but you’re still relatively young (ahem, from the person who just saw her 43rd birthday). For that reason I say why not try living without your acl for a year. I said I’d have skipped surgery if I had a desk job and mainly did gym stuff. I did the surgery so I could climb mountains again. I haven’t had the courage to scale those mountains post-op because of my ongoing weakness. So, I’m still not where I wanted to be post op. I hope that helps?

      Reply
    • I lived for 8 years without an ACL following the tear + a tibia plateau fracture. I had two surgeries to fix the plateau fracture and remove all of the hardware and just couldn’t face another one for the ACL. I did extensive PT and got back to skiing with a brace and trail running. The problem came when I stopped doing regular workouts and keeping my strength up, and I ended up tearing my meniscus 8 years later. Not having an ACL does make you much more prone to injuries like a meniscus tear so my advice would be to keep your fitness and stabilizer muscle strength up if you decide against surgery. I had to have surgery for the meniscus tear so opted for ACL reconstruction at the same time.

      Reply
    • Adrian, sprinting is not out of the question with no ACL, I was able to do everything I could prior to my injury except for reactive movements from outside stimulus

      Reply
  39. I love this article, despite the fact I wouldn’t wish a torn ACL on anyone. I have had two reconstructions on my left knee as I damaged it twice playing sports. The first surgery was 7 years ago and the last one was 4 years ago.

    Year on, I still don’t 100% trust my knee and contact sports are a no-no. I began a bad habit of flaring my foot out the the side when i stood (toes pointing 45 degrees out) for what i thought was extra stability when standing. This has affected my hips and i have regular hip pain and my hip wants to ‘click’ but it cant/wont.

    Bearing in mind I am 32, unless i stretch my legs, hips, and back each day…all three will give me a dull ache. The NHS told me this was a sort of chain reaction. being 6’2 and 18 stone (rugby player build) my every day life puts stress and strain on my body. let alone when i’m exercising and putting additional strain on my joints.

    Thank you for posting this article, bloody staples and all, and good luck with your long term recovery.

    Anyone who is about to have surgery, DO NOT neglect your exercises given to you. They could be the difference between you having the freedom to enjoy your knees new lease of life or being restricted to sitting out fun activities because you don’t trust your knee.

    Reply
    • Hi Jason, I have the same fear about contact sports. Before my operation I was learning krav maga (helpful for a 5ft girl who often travels alone to dangerous destinations) but that’s been put on long-term hold. I kind of figure that if I can’t run 5K without hurting my knee, it’s probably best to avoid being kicked in it. After spending a lot of time (and money) with physios and suffering hip pain myself, I’ve found this can be because you’re overcompensating for a weak knee. The solution I’ve been told is strengthening your needs. If you can persist with a physio on your hip pain, they might be able to give you a solution that is more useful than the NHS ‘it is what it is’. I have persisted and gotten further ahead in my recovery that I would have been if I’d just taken the NHS view that I’d got as far as I could go. Good luck with your recovery too!

      Reply
  40. I just wanted to thank you so much for sharing your experience. I recently snapped my ACL while skiing and am scheduled for surgery next month. I’m really active usually and have 3 young boys so already I’m finding it incredibly frustrating!
    I’m also terrified of the pain and rehab after the surgery but your account has at least prepared me for that now.
    I’ve found this so helpful so thanks very much!

    Can I ask if you did anything prior to surgery in terms of physio?

    Reply
    • Hi Gemma, skiing seems to be responsible for most of these injuries! My knee was very swollen and I spent most of my pre-op time getting back range of motion. In hindsight, I’d have done more to strengthen my muscles which had dissipated due to reduced use. I hope the surgery goes well.

      Reply
  41. Good Morning Jo, I had my ACL replaced and my Meniscus repaired in November 2017. My knee feels great, up until I want to speed walk and take a fast turn and then it feels like my joint gets caught on something, but it doesn’t hurt until it becomes unstuck! ( like trigger finger, when your finger locks and you need to unlock it, which hurts when you have to unlock it). Also when I am walking along someone, they ask me “why are you limping”? I tell them I’m not, then they say ” it seems like you are walking like you have one leg longer than the other”! Luckily it someone I am close to at work. Then I keep thinking to myself, maybe I am limping. because I had to retrain my self not to limp, because I went so long with a bad knee. So I am cautious about me limping, but if I am not cautious about it, I guess I will limp. Unless of course my leg is shorter than the other since the surgery. My knee doesn’t always hurt, but it does concern me that I am walking funny not realizing it. I plan on going to the orthopedics, but not the one who did the actual surgery, I want someone who is going to listen to me. Did you have any of these types of issues after?

    Reply
    • Hi Michele, I had one leg shorter than the other before my surgery (found out when I had a floor length dress made) and I’ve mentioned this countless times to my physio and doctors I’m always told it’s both common and normal so I’m passing that information on to you – apparently were not supposed to worry about it. As for limping, I think sometimes this can be in the mind of the person watching you. A friend asked me the other week if I was limping. I wasn’t and I know I wasn’t because I’d had gait analysis just the week before. I suppose she was just conscious of my knee as we were doing a lot of walking. It’s always a good idea to get checked even if it’s just for peace of mind and I would definitely get your trigger knee looked at because that doesn’t sound fun or good. I hope you get that sorted.

      Reply
  42. I’m so happy to see this! I wish I had known so many things going in! I had my surger April 13, 2018. I tore my ACL completely skiing and I did it on the first day third run in!! I was a huge runner and loved hiking, I also had been a big skier. I wish I would have had a toilet seat booster so I didn’t have to get down so low those first few weeks! I had the hamstring graft and it caused more pain to sit on the toilet than I thought! I have a high pain tolerance so other than the meds they gave me at the surgery center I didn’t take anything but ibuprofen and Tylenol. I also was not allowed to bend my knee at all post surgery until I saw my therapist and then only slightly. What seemed like forever went by quickly as I progressed. The most exciting was the day I could do a full rotation on the stationary bike! After that my recovery went quick. I did everything I was told and made sure to take my time yet push myself. Almost a year later I still can’t run more than a few miles without pain but I just do it. The hardest part is weather changes, my knee hurts but ibuprophen and a hot bath help.(mind you I stand 8-11hrs a day for work). But overall it was super successful. I’m only 28 so I wanted to be active and with my surgery I am. Still recovery will take a while but don’t get frustrated!

    Reply
    • Hi Brandi, I don’t know why doctors don’t tell us what the surgery will actually be like then perhaps most of us wouldn’t get it and it is worth in the long run. I remember very vividly my first rotation on a stationary bike and being thrilled even though everyone around me was speeding along and I just completed one turn. It’s a good point about the toilet. I went to Asia a few months after my surgery and had to re-learning to use the squat loo – that was an experience! Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Reply
  43. I read this post before my ACL surgery and it scared me so bad that I rescheduled my surgery. Today is day two, just had my surgery yesterday at the VA and I must say it was so far a good experience and it went fast. I spoke with the surgeon and the Anesthesiologists, they gave me a block in my leg to numb it, then they put me to sleep. When I woke up, I was in the recovery room with a leg brace in place and numb. I didn’t feel anything until the anesthesia wore off, the pain was unbearable. They sent me home with a two day auto fussed block. God help me when this Autofusser block is done, but hopefully by then the pain will lessen. They offered anesthesia in my back to numb both legs, or just a block with being put to sleep. With the epidural I would be wide awake with a catheter in place, with the block I would be put to sleep with no catheter. I hate catheters so I elected to be put to sleep. So I guess the experience stands with who is doing the surgery.

    Reply
    • Oh no, Anna, I’m so sorry I terrified you into rescheduling 🙁 But I’m glad you finally plucked up the courage to go ahead with it. I hope you’ve been able to manage your pain and that your recovery is going well.

      Reply

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