ACL Repair Surgery – What They Don’t Tell You (and My Recovery)

acl repair surgery recovery
My knee – after I bust it up in the British Virgin Islands…a few days’ sail from a hospital.


I recently had ACL repair surgery, which most people who follow this blog will already know. For my regular readers, apologies for the break away from my usual travel topic. If you have zero interest in reading about my ACL repair surgery, how about a few travel articles you might not have read yet:

10 Travel Experiences Everyone Should Have in Their Lifetime

Banged up in a Panama Prison

How to Plan Your Own Prosecco Tour in Italy

If you’re still here. you’re either intrigued or facing ACL surgery yourself.

Like most people about to go under the knife, I did a bit of research before my operation and I found all the usual stuff – anatomical diagrams of the inside of a knee, a description of what the actual surgery involves (lights, camera, scalpel).

What I didn’t find was a description of what it’s really like to have ACL repair surgery – and it turns out there were more than a few things that I didn’t know about the operation. So, in this article I’m going to share with you what the surgery was like for me together with how I’ve been recovering in the days, weeks and month post-op.

A couple of notes:

  • I had my surgery in the UK on the (public, not private) National Health System. I can’t imagine that the experience would differ that widely around the world but who knows…
  • At the time of writing this first part I was 3 to 4 weeks post-op but I’ve been updating the recovery section as time goes by.
  • Advance apologies if you’re squeamish – I’ve included a couple of pictures of my incision so you can see what it looks like. I’ll give you another warning just before you reach them!

ACL Repair Surgery – 15 Things They Don’t Tell You

acl repair surgery pre-op
You know – pre-planning for that awkward moment when the surgeon asks ‘my left or your left’ except you’re unconscious so he has to guess.

1. They shove a tube down your throat while you’re unconscious

acl repair surgery oxygen
Your throat is probably just sore from the oxygen they said…

I’m a grown up. I understand that there are things that need to happen while you’re being operated on. I just wish I’d been told in person (rather than finding out from Google) that they shoved a tube down my throat while I was out for the count. That way, I wouldn’t have been worried about why my throat was so damn dry and sore when I woke up. I also could have pre-planned and got some honey and lemon and throat sweets in for my post-op recovery.

2. They also insert a catheter and suppository

TMI warning

In fairness, they asked me if I wanted a suppository and my initial reaction was ‘urggghhhh. NO!’ until they told me it delivered 16 hours of pain relief. The idea of them inserting it while I was unconscious made me feel a little bit violated but I opted for that over having it inserted while I was awake, which would make me feel violated but with the added ‘bonus’ of a visceral memory of the event.

What they didn’t tell me (and I once again learned from Google) was that they also catheterised me. How did I surmise this? Well, I felt somewhat irritated in that area – something that lasted for around a week and made me wonder what they hell they’d done to me. Seriously, if you’re going to mess around in my ‘downstairs closet’ while I’m asleep, i) tell me about it; and ii) be gentle!

3. You’ll be weak…from hunger

I’m that person who needs to eat 10 small meals a day. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but being nil by mouth from 8pm the night before until 3pm the following day can make you weak. Sure, I was fed tea and toast (which was a struggle to get down because of my dry mouth and throat), it’s simply not enough to sustain me.

The result – I felt very weak and sick when I tried to move from horizontal to upright on my crutches. The nurses were convinced I was having a reaction to the surgery. I was convinced it was something more simple – I was weak from hunger. A sandwich later and I was up no problem.

4. The end to end admission may take longer than you think

acl repair surgery operation
This irritating kit is unfortunately the last thing they remove before you’re allowed to go home.

I was first to surgery (around 10 a.m.) and with an op time of about 1.5 to 2 hours, I had ideas that I’d be home by mid-day. As it turns out, I got home around 8pm. That was partly because I had to sit with my leg in a knee bending machine for a few hours post-op but also because I was too weak to walk (see above).

5. The pain medication will probably make you feel sick

I was given co-codamol (codeine and paracetemol) as my main pain relief medication and boy did it make me feel sick. Ever drank too much coffee and felt jittery/like you want to vomit? That’s what the codeine did to me. It also made me want to nap within 15 minutes of taking it. As a consequence, by day two, I was already phasing it out and replacing it with just paracetemol and ibuprofen instead. The downside – I was in more pain that I probably needed to be in those first few days but at least I was alert and not feeling sick.

6. It hurts (more than you think)

acl repair surgery recovery
My friend bought me these Minion socks – helped with the pain. Btw, that’s a DVT sock on my right leg. You’re advised to wear them post surgery and I was given a couple of packs in the hospital.

Of course I knew the operation wasn’t going to be a walk in the park (nor afterwards!) but the intensity of the pain in those first 3-4 days surprised me. Not feeling able to take the co-codamol didn’t help. The good news is that although the pain is bad those first few days, it does ease and I was on off-the shelf painkillers within a few days.

7. The pain medication will probably give you constipation

Another TMI warning

We all know what constipation is. Fortunately, my physio had pre-warned me and I just chilled out about it, waiting for my body to right itself. Which it did and within the week things were back to normal.

8. The surgical dressings will hurt as much as the incision

acl repair surgery dressing
Getting creative with my clothing to give the incision some air while trying to keep warm! ACL repair surgery is not a cold weather activity.

It didn’t occur to me that this would happen. I possibly didn’t help myself – I’m the kind of person who needs some sort of shower every day to feel like I’m not a slob. This meant I was changing my dressing daily – I had staples rather than stitches and was told not to get them wet (nurse: ‘you don’t want sticky staples’). I also kept my dressing on as long as the staples were in because my body magically started to push the staples out around week one and I didn’t want to snag anything.

Upshot: this constant pulling off and putting on of adhesive dressing took its toll. In fact, I’ve had the dressing off for nearly a week and the skin where the dressing stuck is still tender. I have been using Elizabeth Arden’s 8-hour cream. It’s not your average moisturiser – it has a bit of a medical scent to it and it has amazing repairing properties which have really soothed my skin.

9. The small incision – not as small as they say

Just a couple of camera holes and a small incision. Yeah right. My incision is a couple of inches long – which looks a lot on a 5ft tall person. Pre-surgery, I’d just seen the scars from other people, which were a lot smaller because, well, healing and all that. I know my incision scar will shrink too but that first time I saw the cut, I was a bit shocked. Photos of the incision further below.

10. Bathing is an epic challenge

At the time when you need stability in the shower the most, ACL repair surgery takes one leg out of action. Had it been decent, I’d have videoed the various poses I found myself in while I simultaneously tried to wash my body and hair while keeping my dressing dry. I have to say, my yoga came in very helpful.

By about day 10 I simply gave up and just showered faster.

After three and a bit weeks, I’ve finally had a soak in a bubble bath – I was advised to wait a little in case the fragranced products irritated my skin after having the staples out. To be on the safe side, I bought this Johnson’s Soothing Naturals baby bath foam. Not only was my incision fine with it, it had a nice scent, too.

The rest of the time, I’ve just been using my L’Occitaine Lemon Verbena shower gel as usual and this week I’m going to buy some Bio-Oil to help reduce scarring. Some articles say don’t bother but I say nothing ventured, nothing gained.

11. Having your staples out is brutal

acl repair surgery staple extractor
My very own staple remover!

I’ve had stitches removed before and apart from feeling a bit queasy (I was 10 years old – I was allowed to feel queasy), it didn’t hurt. For some reason, I thought having my staples removed would be the same. Not so.

It hurt like hell!

First of all, they use a sharp, metal staple extractor – in fact, I was supplied this in the hospital and for a good few seconds I thought I was looking at a DIY jobbie until the nurse read the horror on my face and reassured me it was just to take to the clinic; I didn’t have to pull them out myself at home.

The problem with this tool is that to get the staples out, it needs to fit under the staples – which is right where your skin is most tender at the point of incision. Some of my staples had lifted themselves up a good few millimetres by the time of removal which I was so grateful for. I can’t imagine the pain if they were still flush with my incision. Take pain pills before you go and take comfort in the fact that there are people who have more staples inserted that you would after ACL repair surgery. Plus, the relief of having them out is worth the pain.

12. Initial progress will be quicker than you think

acl repair surgery knee bending
I was horrified I was going to be tortured when I saw this contraption but I give it full credit for getting my knee bending quickly post-op

I couldn’t believe the hospital had my leg bending back to 45 degrees within just a few hours of surgery. Sure, the contraption was fresh out of a horror movie, but it did an excellent job. I was also given stair and crutch training, which gave me the confidence to go home that day. I was told I could weight bear and within a few days I was taking steps without crutches – I’d expected a much slower start to my recovery and I was frankly delighted with myself.

And here’s the contraption in action just a few hours post-surgery…


13. ‘Back to normal’ progress will be slower

And those early days gave me false ideas about how quickly I’d progress. Sure, I’m swifter moving around without crutches but weeks 1 to 3 have seen pretty much that same level of progression. I’m still taking stairs by putting both feet on each step and although my knee bend has moved on to over 110 degrees, that’s a bit of a no-man’s land in terms of usefulness – most activities (kneeling, bending crouching, going down stairs) require closer to 180 degrees. Impatience has taken hold. Fast.

(On the plus side, all this feet-up, stay indoors business means I’m finally catching up on some of the books on my reading list).

I should say that I also had  a medial meniscus repair at the same time as my ACL repair surgery. However, as I had a horizontal tear in the cartilage in the ‘red’ blood vessel zone, it just required a stitch, so I’m not sure it’s added that much more to my recovery time (that’s based on zero expert opinions, btw).

14. The physio protocol is impressive

I knew that ACL repair was common but it hadn’t occurred to me how well-established the ACL recovery protocol would be. With goals and exercises for each phase, if you’re a person who likes to have something to aim for and a bit of a tick-list to get through, you’ll like the structured approach to the physio.

15. Having ACL repair surgery is totally worth it

acl repair surgery
In a time not too far away, I hope to get back to some volcano hiking…

I was told that I could live without having surgery and many people function happily without having their ACL in place. However, as my physio said, that’s fine for people with a desk job who maybe go to the gym a couple of times a week. That’s certainly not me.

At only 40 years old, and with one eye always on the next adventure, I wasn’t prepared to live a life limited by forward-facing, even-surface activities. I want to climb more volcanoes. I want to swim with whale sharks again. And if I ever find myself having to outrun an ostritch in the dessert (look, strange experiences tend to find me), I’d like to know my knee has my back.

Mentally, I already feel better knowing that my knee bone’s connected to my thigh bone (ok, not necessarily anatomically correct, but there’s a song in there). Knowing that in time I’ll be able to get back to all the adventures I’m used to, I’m 200% happy I went ahead with the surgery.

If you want to hear my busting my knee story, you can read it here.

UPDATE JANUARY 2018 – WOULD A VIDEO BE USEFUL? I’m now just over a year post-op (1 year, 3 months) and wondered if a video would be useful? I was thinking of a quick demonstration of some of frequent things that come up like knee bending, squatting, jumping, twisting, sitting cross legged, kneeling etc. Just so you could have some look at what recovery can look like, keeping in mind we all heal differently. If you think this would be useful and there’s something in particular you’d like to see (though I’m no contortionist), drop me a note in the comments. I’m off to South Africa for a month mid-January to mid-Feb so the video would be after that.

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’m currently at the end of week 3 of recovery from ACL repair surgery but I’ll try and update this as the weeks go on. Here’s my experience.

Things I found most useful during my recovery

Therapearl Ice Pack – I particularly like how flexible this ice pack is, which allows it to bend around your knee and leg. It also doesn’t give you frost bite.

Knee sleeve – nope, not for actual knee support but to hold the Therapearl ice pack in place without having to hold it, though you’ll want to wait until your incision is robust enough to cope with wriggling this on. I bought a size larger than I’d need to fit in the ice pack. I also tried using an old pair of tights that I cut up but it didn’t work nearly as well.

Lightweight shopping bag – again, not put to its original use. I used one to carry my stuff around the house (books, pain medication, ice pack, water) when my hands were busy with crutches or steadying me on stairs. Get a couple because when you come to use it, you’ll find you’ve left it in another room.

Gym ball – physio is a chore so surrounding myself with a couple of at-home items, I was able to squeeze in exercises between formal physio sessions. The ball was great for squats against the wall and resting my leg on it to let gravity work on straightening my leg.

Floor exercise bikeCycling is highly recommended for strength and range of motion in the early weeks and, like with the gym ball, it was easy to fit in 5 minutes here and there while I watched TV or worked from home, rather than dragging myself to the gym.

Therabands – if your physio or hospital doesn’t supply one of these, buy it online. Your physio routine will involve a fair bit of therband use and having one lying around can also encourgae at home use and swifter recovery. When I travelled for 3-months post op, my theraband came with me.  Speak to your physio about which colours you should use.

Warning: incision photos in this section!

In hospital

acl repair surgery 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

First 24 hours

  • 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 you get back to work?

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 (I was here at time of writing – more updates below)

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

Just kidding via GIPHY

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.


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 on…

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.

Month 8…

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 on…

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.

A reminder of the things I found most useful during my recovery

Therapearl Ice Pack

Knee sleeve 

Lightweight shopping bag 

Gym ball

Floor exercise bike 


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

Found this useful? Share it on Pinterest…

acl surgery

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

Found this useful? Share it on Pinterest…

acl surgery

Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

125 Responses

  1. Jill
    Jill at | | Reply

    I’m now 4 weeks post-ACL reconstruction and want to let you know that this BLOG was super helpful in the process. So Thank You Jo! For others considering surgery: The day of the procedure and the next day, I felt FINE, but burdened by a cast around my knee. Day 3-4 I was completely out-of-it and relied on friends to change the ice bags in my ice machine, get me elevate my leg and exercise. I was LOOPY. It was hard. I stopped meds after 3 days, took Tylenol for a day and 1/2, then went BACK to pain-meds for 2 additional days. Yes, it was unbearably painful! I was told that you SHOULD expect pain after your first PT appointment. I had to take Lyft there and back. I’d also planned ahead and ordered FOOD-IN for a good week as I didn’t want people puttering around my kitchen which happens anyway! After 7-10 days, I was driving but chose to go out ONLY at hours of the day when there’d be little traffic. I did a little grocery shopping which was HARD and NOT on the list of “things to do” and I regret it. I think it SLOWED down my healing process. I chose to do my surgery over the Christmas/New Year Holiday so spent 3 weeks at HOME and back at work at week 4! Fortunately, I can SIT and prop up my leg at work. That first week, I had painful days and had to take an Aleeve. Now I remind myself to prop up my leg and ICE during the day. When I’ve got time, I’ll even get on the floor and do stretches, leg lifts, etc. It IS difficult getting UP from the floor. Ugh. I also am riding a stationary bike 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins in the evening DAILY. Tomorrow will be exactly 34 days since I had surgery. I am walking up and down stairs but I hold onto the bannister. I’m going to yoga, but therapeutics and Urban Zen only. I’m afraid to attempt a downward dog or flow. Yesterday, my I was able to bend my knee to 118 degrees, but I THINK I should be at 120-130 … Progress continues …

  2. Olivia Hendrie
    Olivia Hendrie at | | Reply

    Hiya Jo.

    I contacted the consultant and he said I just need to strengthen my quads.

    Today we went to the phisio and he said it was normal and he gave me some good exercises to use to strengthen my muscles.

    Thank you for your advice for contacting the consultant 😀

  3. Hannah Malaby
    Hannah Malaby at | | Reply

    I’m twenty one years old and I’ve just had my second ACL repair surgery two weeks ago today. I tore the ACL and meniscus in my left knee and had surgery to correct it 6 years ago and then tore the one in my right knee this past July.

    I completely understand the impatience with wanting to recover more quickly, I want to get back to running and jumping, going to yoga and spin class everyday. The good news is that the scar gets even lighter as time goes on, as well. Mine is hardly detectable at all.

    It’s a brutal injury to suffer but for anyone who is concerned about recovery, I can say after 6 whole years my left knee honestly feels as good as it did before the injury ever occurred. Here’s to hoping my right one sees the same recovery and improvements! Good luck to you all and your knees!

  4. Olivia Hendrie
    Olivia Hendrie at | | Reply

    Hiya! I am 13 and I have had acl surgery 2 1/2 weeks ago. I am now walking around the house without crutches quite easily however my leg has been locking and crunching worse than before the surgery! Should I be worried and ring the consultant? Your article is amazing thank you so much for doing it! Xx

  5. Erika Krohn
    Erika Krohn at | | Reply

    Thank you for your blog chronicling your acl surgery recovery. I tore my ACL skiing in Mammoth, CA on Nov. 20, 2017-my first day of the season. I had surgery 6 days ago on Dec. 14. I was unprepared for how much pain I would be in. I go to doctor tomorrow to have stitches removed-no staples for me. I also have my first physical therapy appointment tomorrow. My plan was to go back to work on Jan. 8, but now I’m not so sure.I’m a 46 year old elementary school principal-eager to get back to barre classes, skiing, biking, and hiking.

  6. Erika Krohn
    Erika Krohn at | | Reply

    I really enjoyed your blog. I tore my ACL on Nov. 20, 2017 in Mammoth skiing-first day of the season for me! I am 6 days post-op. I was unprepared for how much pain I would be in. I liked hearing your account-a real life account after all of the medical articles I’ve read. I return to doctor tomorrow to get my stitches removed-which I think is a little early….We’ll see! I also have my first physical therapy session tomorrow. The ice machine has been my best friend! I’ve been icing the majority of each day. It was a worthwhile purchase-my insurance wouldn’t cover. Sleep has been a challenge since I’m a stomach sleeper as well. I was hoping to go back to work on Jan. 8-but I’m not sure if that will be realistic.

  7. Aubyn Thompson
    Aubyn Thompson at | | Reply

    Hi Jo!! (:

    Wow, I am 8 days post surgery, and I am SO BLESSED to have come across your article! Reading this has eased my mind in so many ways. I’m 17 years old, and I tore my ACL doing what I love most, playing soccer. I tore it right before my senior year high school soccer season too…what great timing right. (; Over the past few days I have been extremely upset with my progress, and I am mentally and physically tired of this whole recovery. With that said, I realize it’s barely been a week.. hehe. I definitely underestimated the duration of this recovery; however, in my defense it has been one long week. After surgery, I was in a lot of pain in my knee, which I of course treated by the pain meds I was given, but a few days passed and I started to feel a strange sore feeling in my calf. Long story short it turned out to be a blood clot, and I had to be in the hospital for two days. Granted… I’ve never had to stay in a hospital before. This was a huge ordeal.. I mean I had to pee in a bed pan, which was incredibly humiliating for a 17 year old about to go off to college.. but it could be worse right?! (; They even stuck me several times in an attempt to get an IV in before eventually putting in a picc line. Anyways, the hospital story is a long story, so I won’t bore you with all of that. We begged them to let me come back home since the main reason why I was there was because the doctor was 90% sure I had a pulmonary embolism(ew).. which I didn’t, thank the Lord. I’ve been home for a few days, and my knee has been doing a lot better; however, this morning I woke up and the back of my knee was giving me lots of trouble. 🙁 It bothered me all day, and it’s really discouraging. I have full extension, flexion not so much. It really hurts to work on my flexion, so this worried me. I read on here though that other people are having the same exact problems!! I was left in the dark about how hard the recovery really is for sure! My main reason for commenting is to say that I am incredibly thankful for finding your article, and I look up to you for your recovery process!! I also love how you took the time out of your busy schedule to give a detailed response to everyone who commented on your post. (Which is a lot of comments!!) You truly want to help people, and I just wanted to thank you so much for giving me hope and making me feel so much better about the long road of recovery I have ahead of me! You are AWESOME!!! 😀

  8. Parvathy
    Parvathy at | | Reply

    I just had the ACL reconstruction (from hamstring) 4 days ago in Mumbai , and this post I thought gave me realistic expectations for recovery as I’m 39 as well with two kids under 5 and looking after them is really tough under the circumstances.

    My immediate goals are to be able to resume yoga as well as be able to carry my 1.5 year old 😢 who I haven’t picked up for a month since my injury.

    I have the staples on and yes hobbling to the washroom with a crutch is a pain but I got a fantastic tip from my surgeon on using cling film while showering- works like magic !!

    It’s early days yet and I’ll be re reading the post for motivation to be s committed to PT

  9. Sally
    Sally at | | Reply

    Hi – thanks so much for posting your blog.

    I am a 48 year old female who loves recreational sailing, and like you I didn’t want to be limited or anxious about my knee in the future. So – I have had an ACL reconstruction, with medial and lateral meniscus repairs.

    I am now 10 days post op and have found your blog really helpful. There were minimal instructions from my surgeon /hospital except to weight bear as able using the crutches and to use the pain medications as needed / prescribed. I underestimated ++ how long the pain and swelling would go on for, and I underestimated how lovely ice would be and how often I would need to use it. Your post op experience is very similar to mine, and tracking your comments day to day has helped a lot.

    I used to be a physio (quite a few years ago now) and everyone assumes I will know what to expect, but to be honest it has been quite educational being on the patient side, and living with an injury / post surgery every day is quite different to the experience when giving therapy and knowing the theory vs the reality. Haven’t started physio treatment for my knee yet…..

    I will keep checking back to your blog as I progress – but thanks again for your honest account and hope you are travelling widely and confidently with your knee now.

  10. Kerry
    Kerry at | | Reply

    I’m so pleased I came across your article that is so recent with others experience!🙏
    Today I’ve been having second thoughts on having my ACL reconstruction which is on Monday (27th November 2017)! Eeeek! I still feel that I might but if I tell you my story I’d be so appreciative of people’s options.
    I’m very active and always have been but feel as I get older I’m actually doing more (I’m 37) because I love how being fit and healthy makes me feel.
    I originally thought I’d dislocated my knee in March 2016 playing hockey. To me it seemed a freak incident, I’ve been playing hockey since a teenager. All that happened was, I jumped and when I landed my knee slid out of place back in again. After an MRI it showed a ‘slight’ tear in the ACL. Obviously, my questions were how long is rehab, when can I drive and can I play hockey again? So I worked on strengthening the quads and did lots of spinning then weight training.
    I didn’t get back to hockey for the start of 2016 season but thought I’m not rushing this I’ll do it properly and aim for after Christmas.
    I went training and things felt good, more a physiological barrier. Played one match fine, although I knew I was holding back, I was scared, scared of sprinting and then having to stop that’s where I felt most vulnerable.
    Then in May 2017 during my 2nd 7 aside hockey match it happened again! This time I heard a tear but I was able to hobble of the pitch iced it then drove home, I was gutted that it had happened again.
    So, a complete rupture showed on the MRI (not sure about the meniscus which they’ll look at when they’re inside). I have worked to strengthen my quads for the last 16 weeks after being advised that the more you do to strengthen now will help with recovery after the op. I have ran 5k 3 times this month the first was a struggle, my goal as always was not to walk. It was tough, the pain was on the outside of the knee which shot across to the inside of my calf to my ankle making it feel like it was seizing up and caused me to limp run.
    The last 2 runs have been easier, the discomfort sets in later so I’m thinking there is progress, running down hill makes me nervous, I have to concentrate on where I’m putting my foot.
    I’m still not playing hockey at the level I was as I’m still afraid of my knee giving out when it comes to stopping after a sprint.
    I suppose the question I’m asking is, is an ACL reconstruction going to be worth it?
    Thanks in advance.
    Sorry for the massive read.

    1. Janet
      Janet at | | Reply

      Hi Kerry, hope you don’t mind me jumping in here? I did mine playing hockey too (placed my foot to change direction but didn’t get as far as twisting before it went) and I tried to return on ‘conservative treatment’ (i.e. Physio and strengthening) but Hockey is not a good sport to play without your ACL as there’s so much twisting and turning – it soon gave way on me and caused even more damage. Like you say, you’ll always be holding back, trying not to hurt it. And then one day, you probably will hurt it! I’m impressed you’ve been doing so much running – straight lines are easier! I lost cartilage as well so running was painful. I’m 35 and had my ACL reconstruction 8 weeks ago – hoping to return to Hockey for the start of the 17/18 season (but I have missed nearly two whole seasons with a long wait for my op so will have to see what level I manage to get back to 😞)
      I’d recommend having it done if you want to play hockey ‘properly’ again but be ready for a long recovery. Good luck!

  11. donley
    donley at | | Reply

    Hi Jo. I just wanted to check back – I am at 10 weeks post surgery and just want to share with everyone to hang in there, as you say — it will get better. For me, I was definitely comparing my progress to others at physio, many whom are very athletic / active and 15-20 years younger than I am. For me, I saw tremendous progress at the 7 week mark. Prior to that I was very discouraged. At 7 weeks I was finally able to cycle and get a rotation on the bike. It took about 3 minutes of rocking just to accomplish. I am still not able to swim for exercise. Esp not breast. The one thing I would highly recommend is to focus on getting full extension of the surgery leg to match the other. I take time to let it hang below the knee with weights. Bending and quad strength will come more naturally I n my view. But I believe extension has a more limited window to achieve and to avoid any future limp / gait issues

  12. Kim
    Kim at | | Reply

    Thanks so much for your story! I’m an equestrienne facing ACL and meniscus surgery in a few weeks, and dreading the down time. I also tend to blow up when not exercising regularly, but it sounds like you were able to start burning calories relatively soon Yay! I hope mine goes as well.

  13. Alejandro
    Alejandro at | | Reply

    Hello my name is Alejandro and I had my ACL and Meniscus operated on about 5 months ago. I feel like I’m not getting better as fast as others. I still can not run or jump. I can’t walk for more than 3 or 4 hours. When I try to stand on my heels it hurts big time on my knee. Also sometmes depending on how I move around my knee gives out. It feels like it’s dislocated bu then it starts feeling normal again. I have been doing rehab but more machines at the gym. It just seems like my knee should be stronger and more stable than it is. I’m 44 years old male and active (normally more active). Any advice?

  14. Janet
    Janet at | | Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing your story – I am referring back to it almost daily and have been for ages (in prep for my op and post-op recovery!)
    I had mine on the NHS three week’s ago yesterday and my experience has been different to yours again so wanted to also share it here in case any one else doesn’t experience what they are expecting! This had initially freaked me out as I had prepared for what you had shared and then thought they must be doing things wrong!
    I tore my ACL playing hockey in September last year but hadn’t realised the severity of the damage and returned to Hockey in December only to cause additional damage (torn meniscus and chunk of cartilage pulled off). Had my MRI in January to confirm the extent of the damage, then developed a DVT (they think due to the severe swelling, eek!) so they were messing about deciding when they could safely operate on me (I was taking Apixaban which the surgeon wasn’t happy about for my op!) They then cancelled my original date of the 21st Sept and eventually I got in on the 23rd Oct.
    I was in first (8.30am) on the day of the op – they didn’t put me on that knee bending machine afterwards (in fact the physio at the hospital straight after my op was a bit rubbish!) I was at home by 5pm that day.
    I did have my first NHS physio a week after the op but my quad muscle would not engage with the knee at all, it was completely asleep! I also paid to see a private physio and they managed to wake the muscle up with some electric pads (the type lazy people use on their stomach instead of doing sit ups, haha!) which helped no end but I felt like I was a week behind with my rehab.
    Once my quad woke up I was away with my exercises every two hours and making good progress. Because I had been unstable for a year, I had ‘developed’ my own special way of walking to minimise stress on the knee so am currently teaching myself how to walk properly, trying to be confident in the stability of my ‘new’ knee.
    As instructed at the hospital, I went for my ‘sutures’ removed 11 day’s post-op, turns out they just used paper steri-strips and no stitches, which was a shocker (and I could have pulled off myself at home!) Think it will be better for my scarring though.
    I used a Sainsbury’s shopping plastic bag and gaffer tape to keep my dressings dry when showering, which worked a treat! My dressings stayed perfectly dry and didn’t need changing once. I also had some fun getting in and out of the shower (shower over the bath!) as well.
    We also have insanely steep stairs at home so not sure when I’ll be able to walk up them one foot at a time.
    I need to start asking my physio for milestones to aim for as they have both been a bit vague and I’m not confident I’m where I should be yet.
    Anyway (that’s probably the longest comment you’ve had!) I just wanted to share some of my story to maybe help your readers understand that even on the NHS things can be very different (frustratingly!)

  15. lauryn burroughs
    lauryn burroughs at | | Reply

    I’m incredibly impressed that you were off pain meds and crutches within a week. I’m 25 and had acl and meniscus surgery a month ago. The first few days were so painful i had to up my pain meds twice just to stop crying and be able to sleep. Also I’m a month post op and just am beginning to walk with the brace and 1 crutch with still a decent amount of pain. I found some comfort in your account of your recovery but was honestly hoping to hear it was more similar to mine since I’m worried about not being able to walk and the pain , etc. Hopefully i can get back to hiking and traveling soon too. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  16. Mike
    Mike at | | Reply

    Thanks for your post very interesting read, glad the recovery has been successful for you. I currently have had acl reconstruction before twice on both knees which i assume is a rareity. funnily enough I am being admitted to hospital to have acl revision next week, due to previous injury and meniscus rupture, as well very unstable knee so I can relate to you on the recovery time it’s slow, frustrating and painful time, but worth it long-term. good luck for the future Mike.

  17. Sophia Senderak
    Sophia Senderak at | | Reply

    Hey Jo, I’m so glad I found your article! I’m currently debating having ACL surgery for a partial tear, but have gotten two very different opinions. An ortho I saw in the states while visiting home recommended surgery to fix a meniscus tear and to do an ACL replacement, but the ortho I saw in Denmark (where I currently live) thinks I don’t need any surgery at all. I am an avid runner and crossfit enthusiast and I’m a little skeptical that I will be able to return to these activities without a replacement. It’s been 2.5 months since the accident and it still feels pretty weak.

    If I did have surgery it would be in the states, and I would need to make a transatlantic flight back to Denmark at about 2 to 2.5 weeks post op. Having had the surgery, do you think this is something you could have done at that stage of recovery? Or would you knee have still been too stiff? Just trying to sort out my options.

  18. Donna Bartlett
    Donna Bartlett at | | Reply

    Hi jo I found ( and my still finding On re reading the stages when I get there). very interesting and helpful. I am today 5 weeks post op having an acl with hand string graft and cartilage removal and I too even now am upset about the size of the scar. The amount of tiredness I felt in the first four weeks was unexpected but this’ll has now got slight better. I stopped the codiene from week two apart from at bedtime and now I just have one ibuprofen each morning. I am hoping to return to work after six weeks but need to drive so I am hoping this will be ok. I wanted to ask you about wearing high heeled shoes when did you find you could do this? Also swimming. I have a physio protocol but it jumps from 4-6 weeks to 6-12 weeks just wondered if you did any. ( I only swim breast stroke) . Lastly I have noticed that my big scar is hard to touch was yours like this.

  19. Mpumi
    Mpumi at | | Reply

    Hi Jo

    This is an awesome article. I had my ACL surgery on the 19th of September this year. I fully agree with you regarding the pain. Worst ever – then again, this was my first ever surgery.

    I am currently frustrated with my recovery though, it’s been 6 weeks and I still can only bend it to about 60 degrees :-(. I keep hearing that I should be at 90 by now. I am going to physio twice a week and I’m doing my best to try and get my knee to bend as much as it can without the pain, but I still have a bit of swelling as well. I started with acupuncture last week, so hoping that also helps with the recovery. I am giving myself a year to get to normal – I play action netball. Hoping my recovery is as good as yours.

    Just curious about what you used on your scars?

  20. Pavel
    Pavel at | | Reply


    I was surprised to see that date of the article was 2016, i wasn’t too familiar with the small details of surgery but those staples look pretty traumatic. I’m 9 days post op and all of my incisions were covered with so called steri-strips which are used in US mainly after stitches or staples removal which makes me assume I don’t have any stitches, I was told not to touch them and that they will fall off in the shower eventually. 2 fell off so far – one from the lateral scope and the other is femoral tunnel side – no stitches, just a tiny 1cm, neatly closed incisions, the biggest one 2,5cm from the graft sport (quad tendon) feels smooth under the steri strip, i don’t think there are stitches either.

    For the first couple of days I was given this little “purse” that is connected to a thin catheter on my thigh, slowly releasing medication next to a nerve in my thigh that is responsible for sensation in the front of the knee and thigh(mobility preserved), the drug was one of the “caine’s”, the numbing ones, rather than systemic. When it was running out I took half a dose of my prescription pain meds for a day anticipating some crazy pain, but none came and I was able to quickly switch to NSAID’s the following day. When the “purse” ran out I just pulled the catheter out from still numbed thigh, no bleeding or pain, just some 5-7cm of thin rubbery tube.

    I didn’t get intubated either, although a bag of mint & honey candy was waiting for me at home. They only did mask general + regional block on adductor canal. The more I read, the more different are the experiences are across the world I guess. I was expecting worse from my surgery.

    Oh, by the way scheduled for 7am, i was at home just after 11am.

  21. Saahiti
    Saahiti at | | Reply

    Can u do all the daily activities after acl repair ?

  22. Danielle
    Danielle at | | Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey! I am 11 days post ACL repair and am barely
    Weight bearing with crutches- you have truly inspired me to push a little
    More , even through the pain and crazy ankle
    And foot swelling I have right now!!!

    1. Danielle
      Danielle at | | Reply

      Thanks for getting back to me! Swelling went down after few days thankfully. I’m 4 1/2 weeks post and am finally able to bend 95 degrees. This is such a slow and painful journey! But everyday gets a little better. I know according to my doctors pt script I should be almost at 120 but it’s just too hard. I think a lot of it is fear of bending and breaking through the scar tissue. Hope you are doing well!!!

  23. Joedy
    Joedy at | | Reply

    Hey I had my acl reconstruction 5 days ago with the NHS. I have a multi ligament knee where I’ve already had the pcl and plc ligaments replaced 10 years ago. I have a brace on my knee set at 90 degrees movement. They have not planned any physio for me yet n all I’ve been told is I have to see the consultant in 6 weeks. The only concern I have that I would like to ask everyone else who has had this procedure, did the back of ur knee hurt? I’ve had a doner ligament this time n not my hamstring n this is stopping me fully weight bearing. Any advice?

  24. Jacqui
    Jacqui at | | Reply

    On the 21st August I had a bilateral rapture acl repair along with a broken fib on the right leg. Just like you my op was done via NHS. 7 weeks on thanks to private physio I have 100 flex on the right leg and 70 flex on the left. I’m still awaiting NHS physio therapy! If I hadn’t took it upon myself to get things moving i be in a worse of position. I can now walk without crutches and without those horrid knee braces.
    Excercising comes easy every day. My muscles around my knee / thigh and calf are quickly building up with the help of a good diet and protein powder. Today I got in my car ( had to start it up as it hadn’t been driven for months) drove it around the corner , didn’t a three point turn and more importantly I did a emergency stop. I reckon by next month I be goods to go. I can’t wait to start my hot yoga again but for the meantime I be stuck with my spinning bike.
    Your story is similar to mine only that my scars are much much longer than yours and I had no physio help from the NHS. It’s good to know there is others out that are talking and getting good knowledge and strength from these experience.

  25. Marquezz Ashe
    Marquezz Ashe at | | Reply

    Hey, I had Acl surgery. A week later I started walking on it with full weight with crutches. Is that normal ? Also my knee felt weird when I would walk, and when I sat down it would crunch or pop is that normal. I still wear my splint but hopefully I can take it off next week cause it gets annoying

  26. Kunal Sah
    Kunal Sah at | | Reply

    Hello Indiana Jo! Your story has been quite inspiring. I tore my acl and medial/lateral meniscus 6 years ago and I just now got surgery, on the 28th of September, 2017. They eliminated my meniscus completely and replaced the ligament with a juicy cadaver tendon. Week 1 and there’s hardly any range of motion and I really underestimated all of this. I’m on exactly 1 week after surgery and it seems like whenever I lower my leg off of the bed from elevation, my entire leg catches on fire. Especially right by the incisions. Is this normal? And, I live in a small town where therapy doesn’t really exist… sad to say. Any exercises I should be doing? My doc didn’t even give me any but he said by week 2 I should be able to bend at a 90 degree angle. I really appreciated you logging this online! Helped quite a bit. Hope to hear back from you!

  27. Diana Bora
    Diana Bora at | | Reply

    Hey Jo, thanks for this post. It gives a clear picture of what i need to expect by which week. Had an ACL surgery and meniscectomy on 27th April this year. Numbness n stiffness still exist n pain to. Just wanted to know if you are able to sit in vajrasana or padmasana. I’m a big fan of yoga but unable to get to these positions like the way I used to before the surgery, coz it hurts like hell. If you are able to, by which week did you achieve it. Kindly advice.

  28. Zoe
    Zoe at | | Reply

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I’m in my 60’s and this is a first time surgery, had no idea what to expect. I very much appreciate all your detailed information and this gives me some sort of guideline to guage by, so I don’t have unrealistic expectations. Thank you Jo.

  29. Jay
    Jay at | | Reply

    HI Jo,

    I’ve had the surgery exactly one year ago (September 19, 2016). I twisted my knee trying to defend the ball (football) (August 21, 2016). Tore my ACL and had to repair my meniscus. Now I’m back to football, thanks to both the doctors and PT, I can twist, jump, run normally now.

    I just wonder, after my gym or football sessions, I do feel little bit pain on my wound, not a big deal, but is it normal to still feel the pain? About how long till it is completely healed?

    PS doctors took one of my hamstrings for ACL reconstruction.


  30. Jake
    Jake at | | Reply

    I had my surgery 2 weeks ago and oh my either I am extremely lucky or you are exaggerating I was in pain for about 2 days after surgery and a week after surgery I could bend my knee the full 135 degrees (same as my left one) I too had tube down my throat I just woke up really thirsty had a lucozade then I was fine! Maybe it is because I’m am 23 but after week 2 I am at the same stage as you were at week 6! Also you need to work harder in the gym at stengthing your muscles around your knee so they can take more strain of the ligament in keeping your stability. You have an 80% chance of regaining full fitness by month 12! Thanks for the read but man it was like an episode of easterners all the way through!! (Depressing drama) I know I will get 100% back to fitness as i will graft my arse of in the gym to regain the strength and more in my muscles around my knee.

    1. Jake
      Jake at | | Reply

      Oh I also had a tear in my medial ligament that also has been repaired anybody reading this after or before surgery. Have a positive attitude the things surgeons can do now a days are incredible and why would they waste time and money in doing the surgery if you can not get back to full fitness. The earlier you start strengthening those muscles and gradually using your new ligament more the better

    2. Michelle
      Michelle at | | Reply

      Hey there just checking in. Still doing my PT everyday and trying to keep my spirits up. Wanted to let anybody know if they have not found it there is aTENS unit that you can order for home use it is very beneficial for swelling and pain. Thanks again for giving us space Jo

  31. Sarhan Knight
    Sarhan Knight at | | Reply

    Hey, Jo

    I’m 17, tore my ACL in a knee to knee collision with an opponent that left my knee bent inwards and I heard the dreaded “pop”. After taking an X-ray it was almost certain that my ACL had torn, and I’m getting ready to go for surgery in about 6 months (March 2018). That’s about a year from the original injury (March 2017). I’ve gone back to just playing football with my friends and I’m able to run at about 40% of my previous max speed. I just wanted to ask about your MRI experience. Did you have an MRI taken? Or did you just go ahead with the surgery after the preliminary physical evaluation of your doctor? If you did get an MRI done, did you have contrast injected in?

    cheers in advance,
    a friend from Singapore
    Sarhan Knight.

  32. Manish
    Manish at | | Reply

    Hiiii Jo, i m 28 I have found this so useful so thank you so much for sharing. I have completely torn my left knee ACL. I did my OP on 22nd August, initial excersies was muscles thighting & foot movment.after OP not that much easy to do daily basis things, after 10 days of my OP my phisyo advise me to start excersies(heel slide). And my ortho tell me to wear knee brace for at least 45days from the day 1st for strong graft & for 3 weeks two hand crutches.
    After that i change over to single crutches as they advice. When i am doing my exercises some time its paining. But after 4 weeks my ROM is only 80-90 degrees, if i go more then that its paining me hell😌. Sometimes i feel i cant go more then this. Now i have to focus on some new excersies, using icepacks as instructed. Now my ortho gave me 1 month to do full movement (110-120 degrees) after that i can go for gym for cycling and other excersies. So what you think its good enough for 4 weeks. I am doing exercises regularly.

  33. donley
    donley at | | Reply

    I hadn’t read all the commentary when I posted before. I too seriously considered whether surgery was necessary in my situation. However, I do enjoy being active such as hiking, biking, occasional tennis (how I tore it) etc. Obviously 2 weeks from surgery to soon to know if it was ‘worth it’. Also considered elective so I basically footed the bill, not much insurance coverage and/or below my out of pocket threshold. I am at 90 degree bend and working hard to get to 110 angle in the next few weeks so I can get on an exercise bike. Also in a full knee brace that I wear at all times to keep knee straight. Have read differing opinions on this but following doctor orders. My surgery occurred within 2 months of injury and started PT within 5 days. So far the worst of post surgery was severe cramping from constipation. Wished I’d done a suppository or started softeners sooner. Use a CPM Machine – Continous passive motion – at home which I think is really helpful. Hope this helps others

  34. donley
    donley at | | Reply

    Thanks very much for sharing. I had surgery 2 weeks ago. I am 54. Active but not athletic or trim/ fit. It has been harder already than anticipated. Your story encourages me

  35. Michelle
    Michelle at | | Reply

    Also is there anyone else reading here that has opted to not have the surgery and what are your thoughts and experience with this

  36. Michelle
    Michelle at | | Reply

    Hey there. Return from the surgeon’s office a few hours ago. I had to wallow in some self-pity for a while… not something I’m used to doing. So my incredibly talented surgeon is very much leaning towards not having surgery. I have a PCL ACL and MCL tear or rupture. 4 four weeks starting Thursday I will be doing PT which I think is a good idea. This will allow the MCL some time to heal which he thinks may not require surgery. That just from what he did in the office today it is going to be a very hard 4 weeks. Up to now I have had basically no pain so I guess I’m spoiled. He said the surgery is incredibly complicated and risky a very high 10% chance of complications. Due to my age and the nature of the injury. I have been very active all of my life and actually enjoy working out. Although I won’t be Slalom skiing I would still like to hike, run muddy marathons, roller skate with my grandkids all that fun stuff. During this next month I will be doing a lot of research which can be scary in itself. Just a few exercises I have been doing at home the last two week is exhausting. I feel so weak. My brother is a PA and has suggested stem cell injections is a possibility if the surgery is too risky. It will be a tough decision this surgeon seems to feel there is enough other support in the knee area that it is not required to have your ACL and PCL intact.
    So I will keep you updated. Also I feel the second opinion would be a smart thing to do not necessarily to disagree with him I appreciate the fact that he is a surgeon and doesn’t want to just go in there and cut things up if you know what I mean. Thanks for the space to write.
    Ps Why fo they call yourself Indiana Joe just curious because I was born in Southern Indiana in the States

  37. Annieraccoon
    Annieraccoon at | | Reply

    Do you know why in the world they used staples instead of stitches? That looks pretty painful! Was your surgery an allograft? They didn’t give you a heavy duty knee brace of any kind after surgery? I had an acl allograft surgery 10 months ago, but I went home to the USA to have the surgery, and they just closed me up with 7-10 stitches ( no catheter or breathing tube either:). I left the hospital with some Percocet for pain, (no suppositories), but I didn’t have much pain at all after surgery. The knee wasn’t bad at all aside from the stiffness, popping, and crunching… I was given a large adjustable hinged knee brace I had to wear for about 6 weeks, and this helped prevent injury to the new ligament while my muscles were at their weakest. The DVT stockings were a nightmare. I had an allergic reaction to them, so I stopped wearing them after a week, but I was on blood thinners for 2 weeks, so that was ok. I still have lots of pain and stiffness in my knee, (my days of tennis and racquetball are over), but thank goodness my stability is back to 100%! (I do still have problems pushing a shopping cart in the store here in the UK…I don’t understand why all 4 wheels have to turn, it makes it very hard to push when you have a bad knee… In the US, only 2 wheels move on the carts, so it’s much easier). I hope you continue to heal up well. Sounds like you’ve done great getting back into running! I really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing it.

  38. Steve Gannan
    Steve Gannan at | | Reply

    Hi Jo,

    I completely snapped my ACL learning to ski in March, only just had the reconstruction operation 6 days ago as I was able to walk, probably run etc and numerous physios suggested I don’t have the operation. In the end lifestyle and activities I want to be able to do were my priorities. Thank you for such a detailed recovery of your operation, over the coming months I can see me referring to it to see and also remind me not to forget to do my exercises and physio.


    Steve Gannan.

  39. Michelle
    Michelle at | | Reply

    Hi…I am 58 and have torn three ligaments in my knee from a slalom waterskiing accident. I was really having fun when I went down. I see my surgeon in two days. I will admit I am really anxiety ridden over what I’m going to hear and experience in the near future. I miss walking, carrying my grandchildren and yoga the most. I will update later. Thank you so much for your article

  40. Olivia
    Olivia at | | Reply

    Thank you so much I am 13 and having ACL reconstruction in December ? This really helped xx

  41. Saad Rahman
    Saad Rahman at | | Reply

    Hey Jo, very cool and detailed post! I just got a knee surgery 9 days after waiting for 2 months. I suffered a bucket handle tear, ACL and MCL tear. It was tough first few days but definitely getting better. I have small suture stitches that are healing up pretty quick, couldn’t imagine the staples, kudos to you for the courage! I dislike pain meds so haven’t been taking them past few days, can’t wait to get on my feet to grab some natural green earth medicine 😉 Still haven’t seen a physio because we messed up on our follow up appt, but I worked out my leg today, already feels better!

    Best of luck with everything and stay strong! Safe Travels!

  42. La'Tina Barnes
    La'Tina Barnes at | | Reply

    Very detailed account! Thanks so much. My 17 yr old will be having this surgery in a couple of weeks.

  43. Luccie
    Luccie at | | Reply

    Hello 🙂 I have found this so useful so thank you so much for sharing. I have completely torn my ACL and medial meniscus and am awaiting surgery (the NHS is taking forever *sigh*) The injury happened whilst I was on holiday in Sri Lanka in December and I was misdiagnosed for 3 months after returning to the UK in Jan by doctors and physios (which looking back at the situation leaves me very frustrated as I had all the signs of the injury- huge swelling, popping sound, locking, unable to walk) until on Mother’s Day (end of march) I slipped on 2 stairs in my house and OMG THE PAIN. Like initially when I originally injured it in Sri Lanka – my leg locked again, swelled up to a size of a balloon and I couldn’t walk. God knows what I did but I decided enough was enough and I took myself to A&E where I waited 6 hours for an X-ray to be told (of course) that I should be fine as no bones are broken. It was at this point my boyfriend demanded that I be referred to the trauma clinic to follow on to the next steps (we both knew something wasn’t right) May I add that the doctor in the hospital was not massively forthcoming about referring me on to the trauma clinic (again so frustrating) but I have my boyfriend to thank so much by pushing him to referring me onwards.

    A week later and still unable to walk, I went to the trauma clinic where the doctor refferred me for an MRI- hurray! And of course when the results came back- as suspected (I had a suspicion it would be that as I was researching like hell what could be wrong with my knee as I was not being given answers by doctors or physios prior to me admitting myself to A&E)
    I had torn my meniscus but a shocking result I have completely torn my ACL as well.

    People were asking me how I was even walking but it’s a funny old injury isn’t it. Your knee kind of returns to normal (I say normal but it’s never ever normal) and you can walk fine until- it gives way randomly (it swells and you can’t walk) you do a star jump (it swells and you can’t walk) someone drunk in the pub puts their arm around you and loses their step with their weight on you pulling your knee suddenly in an odd direction (it swells and you can’t walk) These are just a couple of examples that I have found whilst living with this injury for 9 months.

    I have however, been petrified thinking about the op. Once I was diagnosed and signed up for the surgery i have been thinking so hard whether to have the op. I have never known anyone to have this injury so been reading up massively about the implication. Have you found it worth it? Would you advise to go ahead with it? I’m 28, like you love travelling the world- very active pre injury I was going to boot camp 4 times a week- this has stopped now tho as I’m petrified that one wrong step and it will swell and I won’t be able to walk.

    Any thoughts from anyone re the surgery will be great. I’m scared as hell!!


    Luccie 🙂 x

    1. Theo
      Theo at | | Reply

      Luccie, same here. It was about a year from initial injury to operation. I’ve been recovering for a week so far. Very glad I went through with it – you should do it. You’ll get arthiritus if you don’t and always be unstable.

      Great blog post!

      1. Luccie
        Luccie at | | Reply

        Theo, thanks for the advice! I think I’m going to be looking about a year from injury to op 🙁 it’s very disheartening but what can you do! I’ve done so much research my brain could fall out but it’s so refreshing when you hear of people first hand actually going through with the operation and telling their stories! I’ve never had an operation so I’m a little scared! Would be great to hear your progress and I wish you luck 🙂

  44. Mala
    Mala at | | Reply

    I had my left knee ACL reconstruction with meniscal repair on 13rd july 2017. So its about week 7 of my surgery. I am quit upset with my healing progress since i just can bend my knee for only 30-40° actively (not even more!) in week 5. My surgeon had done knee manipulation in week 6. Yes it was painfull but at least there is some progress of my ability to bend my knee as now i can actively bend it to 50-55°. Im struggling mentally and physically for my recovery. I never miss any physio sessions and follow up with my ortho specialist, but still i cant achieve an aim for at least 90° bending my knee in week 7 ?

    Talking about strength and all, yes of course it still weak. My left leg become small compare to my right leg due to muscle (i guess?). However i am now off from crutches for short distance walk (in home) but not really confident to left my crutches for outdoor walk ??

    Exercises? Almost everyday i am doing exercises as what my physioterapist advice like heel slides, muscle rebuilding, knee strength and all. But i am still not able to do cycling since there is no flexibility on my knee, and it not give me a good cooperation.

    I am still hoping that i will have my speed recovery as this time is all limited for my daily activities. With 3 kids around 2-5 yo, it become hardest. But i am sure that i will be better after this. Slowly but surely.

    Thanks for your experience and advice!! And i pray for ur speed recovery as well!

  45. David W
    David W at | | Reply

    I tore my ACL and meniscus back in June while riding an elevator… the elevator broke and dropped about a foot before coming to a sudden stop and my left knee buckled tearing my ACL and meniscus. Today is 8/31/2017 and I had ACL reconstruction surgery and meniscus repair surgery. I am dreading PT but also know what it means for recovery. The doctor said it would be February before full recovery and return to full duty. Thanks for sharing your story. Looking forward to getting back to normal.

  46. Brandie
    Brandie at | | Reply

    Okay I have to agree 100% percent with you! 6 years ago I tore my left ACL skiing down a mountain and it was a hard recovery and I had PT at the best in the world at Andrews Institute along with some of the best athletes in America. Flash forward 4 weeks ago and I have had ACL surgery on my right knee from a quick turn in a tennis match. Now I am a 40 year old as well and it was refreshing to read that I’m not alone. This last surgery has been just as hard for me. Mentally sitting is what is driving me insane!!! So thank you for the few minutes of smiling knowing I’m not the only 40 year old who wants the world to know this isn’t a piece of cake recovery 🙂

  47. Lisa
    Lisa at | | Reply

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m 22 (a baby I know) and just had my ACL reconstruction under 2 weeks ago and am struggling mentally quite a bit because of my pre-planned trip. Went searching the web for some reassurance as you do and this was just what I needed. Hope you continue to recover and get stronger! xx

  48. Anna
    Anna at | | Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I had my surgery 2.5 weeks ago. I am off crutches but bending my knee is somewhat a problem at the moment and sth that makes me a little scared. I also experience skin numbness around the wound but hopefully that will disappear soon. It’s early days and according to my physio I am making good progress but the immobility frustrates me. I think the key is to stay patient, work hard with physio and try not to panic!

  49. Julie C
    Julie C at | | Reply

    I tore my ACL skiing in Feb. and had surgery with a hamstring graft at the end of March, so I’m almost at 5mths. I’m 44 was in decent shape, but this whole experience has been very challenging. Surgery was a breeze, no catheter btw. I fully went under and was back at my house before lunch same day. Living in a town where a lot of people ski probably doesn’t hurt because my surgeon was pumping out ACL repairs like nobody’s business this ski season due to a lot of snow! I used oxy, advil, tylenol and aspirin for the first four-five days I think. Then dropped the oxy. Staying on the regime of pain meds helped. Ice, ice, ice. I focused for the first month on extension, which I achieved quickly although I was very flexible before the accident. Extension is especially important with a hamstring graft. My hamstring doesn’t feel any different than my other leg now. I was off crutches within a week and the full leg brace within two weeks, even though the surgeon thought I should wear it longer. My PT was very happy when I started with her three weeks after surgery that I had not been using my crutches or wearing a brace. The quicker to use it the less atrophy, which I haven’t really had. Thank goodness all my living area was one floor and easily accessible without stairs. I was back to work after a week and driving within two weeks. All of that said, my recovery has still been very difficult. Stage 3 arthritis was discovered in my knee joint and cleaned up a bit, but it’s made being able to go back to squatting and weight bearing knee bends or even considering running, pivoting of any sort off the table for now. I’m sitting here icing because I just sort of ran up a few stairs in my house without thinking about it and am in pain. I don’t imagine I will run again for exercise, and I haven’t been able to get back to yoga practice, which has been mentally difficult to deal with. I’ve started spin class and strengthening and a lot of balancing exercises. I need to get back to PT too. Summer travel has made that difficult, but I’m trying. The good news is I thought I would spend the summer indoors, but that hasn’t been the case. I went to NYC just one month after surgery and walked 20,000 steps one day. I needed to ice, but no problems. You can’t hurt it by walking, but you have to be careful not to put yourself in a position where you might trip or fall. I still feel quite protective of my knee and am aware that I have to be careful. I look forward to a few months from now when hopefully my movement is better. Thanks for sharing!

  50. Peter Helmrich
    Peter Helmrich at | | Reply

    Gday Jo really enjoyed your story and im feeling more confident but still a bit wary of my upcoming surgery. Im in limbo at the moment after being told by my surgeon on Thursday that I have to wait 6 to 8 weeks for my mcl grade 3 tear to heal, while wearing a brace, before my acl reconstruction , I am a keen surfer and this extra time out of the water is hard to take and just wondering if anyone else has had to wait before surgery cheers

    1. Julie C
      Julie C at | | Reply

      That’s normal to wait to build up quad strength, which will prevent less atrophy. I talked my doctor into surgery 4wks after my accident only because I had travel plans I couldn’t cancel. For the safety of flying and not risking a blood clot, he wanted at least a month between surgery and when I got on a plane. I still took aspirin as a precaution when flying. Don’t rush it too much though!

  51. Michele Taylor-Smith
    Michele Taylor-Smith at | | Reply

    Michele Taylor-Smith
    I had ACL and Meniscus reconstruction in April. Im so disappointed cause have already tore 3mo later. Im overweight and had a cadaver. Im so disappointed in having to do this all over again its a hard 3mo. This time it will be harder with patella tendon. You article is so interesting. Im not sure if Ill be ok without doing again. It buckles occasionally. Trying to get strong plus loose weight to help. Has others had failed with cadavers?

  52. Hem Tai
    Hem Tai at | | Reply

    I had ACL reconstruction on May 22, 2017. It’s Been 5 weeks so far. I can see from your experience that it’s a long journey to recover from the surgery. I desperately want to just walk normally.

  53. Susan Peltz
    Susan Peltz at | | Reply

    Your ACL surgery sounds like an absolutely horrific experience. My husband had his ACL Reconstructed in about 2003 or 4 & e experienced some minor discomfort. I on the other hand had my totally destroyed ACL Reconstructed in 2015 by a John’s Hopkins University Orthopedics Physician & Professor; I had ZERO PAIN or DISCOMFORT from my surgery. After I’d taken 2 pain pill so asked my husband why I was taking them & he said for pain & I responded that “I had absolutely no pain” & he said to stop the pain pills & see how I felt. Other than my leg being bandaged from surgery & in a custom brace u wouldn’t have ever known that I’d just had my ACL Reconstructed. Easiest surgery to recover from. Sorry for your rough experience.

    1. Prasannakumara Parameshwarappa
      Prasannakumara Parameshwarappa at | | Reply

      This is Prasannakumar from USA(Indian), I just had my ACL reconstruction surgery on May 25th 2017 and it is now 7 weeks from the surgery. I had the Auto graft(Patellar tendon graft). i cant believe my progress that in this 7 weeks i am able to walk confidently, do biking with some resistance, staircase step up and downs(down is bit tough), leg press etc. But every day is better as i feel and also my PT says.
      I have one question to you, as you already been to surgery and experienced it a very long back, i wanted to ask that, Is it possible for you to sit on the floor with cross legs(Yoga Pose Padmasana).?? If yes, how many days after the surgery you were able to achieve this? if you have not tried so far then can try it now and let me know your feedback.
      It helps a lot and you can send your reply to
      Also how many months you had the PT sessions?

  54. Kartik
    Kartik at | | Reply

    I also had meniscal repair plus ACL. Into 3rd week I am able to walk and climb stairs with 1 crutch. Pain is not much, but ROM and weight bearing is limited. I am not challenging myself as much but feeling alright with the progress. Hope to walk limp free 6-8 weeks. Staples look like a bad idea, I had self dissolving stitches on mine.

  55. Damjan
    Damjan at | | Reply

    This is a really good post for the most part, but I’ve really got to say that you’re pushing it when you complain about stuff like being cathetherised and having tubes shoved down your throat. Like, a person who claims they climb down volcanoes is uncomfortable with having a cathether placed while you’re completely onconscious so you don’t wet yourself during surgery? Let me tell you something – you got a class A treatment simply because of the fact that you live in a first world country, and most of us aren’t this lucky.

    I got spinal anesthesia during my surgery in Serbia by recommendation from my doctor, so although I could not feel anything beneath my waist I was completely conscious during the surgery.

    After surgery, I had to have a catheter put into place after the anesthesia had completely worn off, because my bladder just shut down completely from it and I could not urinate (a common complication with spinal anesthesia).

    This was 2 days ago and my stomach muscles still ache from flexing so hard in desperate hope of urinating into a bottle in front of like five other people (cause you know, you can’t really stand up after spinal anesthesia for like 24 hours unless you want to come crashing down to the floor, so going to the bathroom was out of the question.) The catheter being put in was a horrible pain but it only lasts like a couple of seconds, and it had to be left there until the next morning, and I felt the thing in my penis the whole damn time.

    Immediately after surgery, the doctor came in and basically said that I had to lift my leg no matter how much it hurts, in order to drain the excess fluid from my joint and keep my quadriceps from atrophying too quickly. So there I was, with a leg that hurt like hell, a catheter that is by far the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever felt in my life (my urinary tract is still irritated from it and it burns when I urinate), and basically not being able to move more than a couple of inches for 24 hours, which led to horrible back pain. But after that first day was done, everything was just fine. Your experience is far less painful from what I’ve come to understand, simply because your healthcare system has far more resources than ours, so you should be grateful you didn’t have to go through what many of us go through during ACL surgery.

    Again, apart from that, this is a solid post, and I guess that if you’re getting operated on in the UK it’s a fine reference, but just keep in mind that there are people out there who have to have this surgery in far poorer conditions.

  56. L.
    L. at | | Reply

    It really depends on the surgeon and how your body adapts… I think this article is a bit exaggerated. I had artroscopy in february, for acl and meniscus repair and didnt have to take a single pain killer, I was free to go home 3 hours after the begining of the operation, didnt need crutches after 3 days post op. Now I can already run squat swim,… Normal activity is fine but I still cant train MMA jet, like I did before. Im 17 yo and into sports so that plus good surgeon, good genetics plus high pain threshold and always pushing myself helped. Dont panic over this article, youll be fine. If you have any questions and if I know the answer pleas ask Ill try to check this article from time to time.

  57. Michelle Ratliff
    Michelle Ratliff at | | Reply

    I got my surgery yesterday morning. Thank you for the article. I still re-read it.using it as a more suitable advice and comparison. Way better then people telling advice that doesn’t pertain or if their surgery was like 20 years ago. Thank you

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    […] be better with a backpack than a suitcase – thanks to having just had ACL repair surgery, I travelled through Myanmar with a suitcase, which wasn’t ideal on dusty, sandy, uneven […]

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  61. Jai Hill
    Jai Hill at | | Reply

    Interesting article! I had ACL reconstruction in 2009. It enabled me to return to football and running from 2010 to 2013 after 7 years off due to several knee injuries. By 2013 I had to quit running and football for good.
    At 44 I am now experiencing intense knife like pains through the knee. Plus the knee started collapsing at Xmas. The pain is awful and I’m going to an orthopaedic doctor.

    Thank you. J

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