20 Gadgets To Help Your ACL Knee Surgery Recovery

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Trx on a yoga mat

I wasn’t prepared for my ACL surgery. I wish I’d done more research about the recovery process, the physio required, and even the practicalities of how to get around a 3-floor triplex apartment on crutches. But the thing was, there wasn’t much out there beyond the usual medical, anatomical articles telling me which bit of the inside of my knee would be fiddled with.

So, a few months post-recovery, I started to write about my surgery. That one post developed into a series. In this post, I’ll share with you the gadgets that helped my recovery. Whether you’re looking for a useful gift for a friend or family member (hint: chocolates are nice but can come with guilt and unhelpful weight gain when you’re inactive) or preparing for your surgery, here are the products I found most useful.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a list of expensive gym equipment. Some of the items cost just a few pounds/dollars. If you’ve had ACL done and have any other recovery gadgets to recommend, let me know in the comments below. 


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

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


1. Lightweight shopping bag

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A lightweight shopping bag was by far the most practical thing I wish I’d thought of in advance. 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. Bonus, you might already have one lying around at home. Go for one with a longer handle so you can hook it over your shoulder – it’s better for balance.

2. Gel Ice Pack

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I’ve tried a lot of ice packs and the pack by Therapearl was the best. Why? The little gel beads inside make the pack very flexible, which allows it to bend around your knee and leg. It also doesn’t give you frostbite. I usually put mine in a freezer back when I put it in the freezer to keep it clean. I have two. That way I can use one and chill the other.

3. Knee sleeve

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I used this sleeve by Bracoo. Nope, not for knee support but to hold my Therapearl ice pack in place. Do wait until your incision is robust enough to cope with putting this on. Before I upgraded to this velcro version, I bought a basic one from a pharmacy and opted for a size larger than I’d need so there was space to fit the ice pack. I also tried using an old pair of tights that I cut up but it didn’t work nearly as well. If you’re buying in advance, a velcro strap version will be much easier to handle/will be more gentle on your knee. Update: I have dragged this out several times since my surgery when I twanged my knee. Gets me back on the straight and narrow pretty quickly.

If you want an all-in-one option of ice pack and knee brace, these are available. However, I still prefer my Therapearl / knee brace combination because of the quality of the pearls in the ice pack.

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4. Cold Therapy Ice machine

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A lot of people have commented how wonderful it was to have a dedicated cold therapy ice machine for the first few weeks. It’s a good option compared to fiddling with ice packs and sleeves if you are happy to invest. Over time: I hate to tell you, but you are likely to have problems with your knee on and off over the years. I still ice my knee from time to time. So, this is unlikely to gather dust after your initial surgery.

5. Bio Oil

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I used Bio-Oil on my scar in the very early days after my surgery. It’s hard to tell whether the bio-oil did the job of reducing my scarring (I believe it did). But above all, it did an amazing job relieving tightness around the scar and itchiness as the scar healed. Warning – I only used this once the wound had properly closed and I didn’t have my staples in anymore. 

6. Elizabeth Arden 8-hour cream

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I swear by Elizabeth Arden’s 8-hour cream. This product works magic on all minor skin irritations and after days of ripping large adhesive dressings off my leg, my skin was almost as pink and tender as the wound itself. Taking care to stick just to the skin, not the wound, this cream was oh so soothing.

7. Baby Body Wash

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I don’t know about you but I tend to use scented shower gels – the more lemony, the better. But, post ACL surgery I recommend making a temporary switch to a baby bath gel. When I first started to properly clean the area of my incision (rather than just letting water run over it), I didn’t want to irritate the wound. I bought some sensitive baby bath and shower gel so I had one less thing to worry about. I went for Johnson’s baby bath but Aveeno and Dove are also good. Look out for products that are hypo-allergenic, good for sensitive skin, and scent-free. Less is more! I used this both in the bath and shower.

8. Gym ball

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Physio is a chore so surrounding myself with a couple of at-home items, I was able to squeeze in quick exercises between formal physio sessions. Having a gym ball was great for squats against the wall and resting my leg on it to let gravity work on straightening my leg. The one above has a decent pump – the coiled-looking pumps are next to impossible. You’ll end up with a sore arm as well as a sore knee.

9. Chair exercise bike

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Cycling is highly recommended for strength and range of motion in the early weeks after knee surgery 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, instead of dragging myself to the gym. At the time, I opted for a small floor bike rather than a large upright bike because I didn’t want to commit the space or money to buying something larger knowing I’d use it only for my initial physio. Years on, I wish I’d bought a full-sized bike as knee strength is something you need to work on regularly.

10. Resistance bands

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Your physio routine will involve resistance bands. If your physio or hospital doesn’t supply a set, buy them online. Having them visible can encourage you to use them at home, helping with a swifter recovery. When I traveled for 3-months post-op, I packed my resistance bands with me. It’s useful to know that the colors relate to the level of resistance. Speak to your physio about which colors you should use as you progress. I used the Theraband brand (above). There are cheaper brands available but check with your physio as the colours don’t always correspond and the colour you use makes a difference. Also, make sure you buy resistance bands that have a long length and are not the closed-loop style which will limit the kind of exercises you can do.

11. Fascia Release Balls

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One of the unexpected side effects of surgery was overall muscle tightness in both my legs. And I noticed it especially as my knee started to heel. I was whingeing on sore leg muscles when a friend told me to research fascia release. The basic idea is that by placing a couple of soft but firm balls under certain pressure points on your body, you can release tension held in the muscles. Suffering from locked-up calves and hip pain from returning to running, I decided to give it a try and it was one of the best post-op purchases I made. Tip: make sure it’s a therapy ball and isn’t a hard massage ball.

12. Sports massage 

Speaking of locked-up limbs, having regular sports massages is another thing I wish I’d done sooner. I had plenty of leg massages during my time in Thailand a few months after surgery, but it didn’t occur to me to do it at home and my muscles got tight because of it. While you’re recovering, all your other muscles step in, putting extra strain on them (balancing in the shower, for example!). After just a few sports massages from my private physio, things felt much easier. You can even get a dedicated fascia release massage, which is even more targeted. My masseuse included friction massage on my scar and it reduced the scar tissue massively. Note, the friction massage was a long time after the wound had healed.

13. Gym membership 

Chances are, if you’re focused on recovery, you already have a gym membership. If not, I’d recommend investing in it for at least a few months post-surgery. From bikes to strength machines, to running machines (for walking and early running), a gym will help you recover faster in a safer way. If you’re looking for a gift for somebody facing ACL surgery, a month’s membership might be a real treat.

14. TRX Suspension Trainer

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Squats and lunges are the cornerstone of ongoing knee strength. I know this because EVERY physio I’ve ever visited after my knee surgery has told me to do them, But they’re painful and boring, right? Until I got a TRX suspension trainer. My most recent physio had a TRX and got me doing all sorts of leg and butt strengthening exercises with it, and it somehow makes it a bit less tedious. It’s probably because it helps with balance, making the exercises feel easier. I still pull out my TRX now and then when my knee is starting to feel a little weak, sling it over my kitchen door and I’m done in 10 minutes. It’s an item I recommend for lifetime knee-strength maintenance. You can also use it for general fitness. TRX is a brand. There are cheaper suspension trainers available. I tried one but sent it back because, compared to the TRX I’d used with my physio, it wasn’t nearly as good.

15. Rebounder / Mini Trampoline

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I didn’t realize it was possible to have so much fun while doing physio. Yet, my good old NHS hospital physio sessions included running on a mini trampoline on my list of recovery exercises. I swear, on dark winter nights the thought of getting on the trampoline (or rebounder as they’re officially called for adults), was the only thing that made me haul myself to physio. I enjoyed it so much, I now have one at home. If any of you are running addicts, you’ll know how hard it is to resist running while you recover. A rebounder is a safe and fun running experience without the impact.

16. Yoga mat

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I was a yogi before busting my knee so it was inevitable I’d hit my yoga mat for recovery. Even if you’re new to yoga, you’ve no doubt read loads of positive things about it. For post-surgery recovery, yoga stretching is a gentle way to strengthen muscles, and a yoga mat is essential so you don’t slip around (and cause more injury). If you are new to yoga, just speak to your physio about which postures to do and when. At first, add a towel to the mat to give your knee some extra padding. There are plenty of cheap mats available. If you want the best grip, I highly recommend a Manduka rubber mat. It’s the one I use and it’s still going strong 5 years later (and I use it a few times every week).

17. Yoga blocks

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If you’re new to yoga and want to do some stretching, it’s likely your hands can’t reach the floor. In that case, grab some yoga blocks – they will help the floor come up to you. Rather than hurting yourself to get into a yoga pose, position a block to help make the poses easier. It will give you better alignment and less risk of harm, too. They’re also good for elevating your feet and letting gravity work on straightening your leg post-surgery.

18. Balance Board / Wobble Board

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Alongside the mini-trampoline, the balance board at my hospital physio sessions was very good fun. Many physio exercises are one-directional – forward. But using a wobbleboard exposes your knee to a more realistic range of directions. Strengthening both your knee muscles and balance is going to help you when you do hit bumps in the road (literally).

19. Medicine Ball

Amazon Basics Weighted Medicine Ball for Workouts…
  • 10-pound weighted medicine ball for upper, lower,…
  • Constructed with sturdy, firm rubber with weight…
  • Can bounce off hard surfaces

Holding a medicine ball while sitting and standing from a dining table chair is an excellent workout for your knee. Having one at home can help you work on your strength with this everyday motion that you do as part of your normal activities. However, I’d only recommend getting one for home if you’re into fitness or really enjoy this physio activity. Otherwise, it will gather dust.

20. Core Sliders

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Core sliders will be helpful with your early physio when you’re trying to remind your knee and leg that they can move! Placing one under your foot and pushing it away then pulling it towards you is one of the basic initial exercises after ACL surgery. I even loaned mine to my dad when he was suffering from knee arthritis and needed to do some strengthening.

So, that’s my list of products and gadgets to help with your ACL recovery. Got any other suggestions or questions, let me know in the comments below.

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trx close up on yoga mat
Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.

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