How Long Are You On Crutches After ACL Surgery?

Here is a common question I get asking how long will I have to be on crutches after ACL surgery and should I try to get off them as soon as possible?


First of all I want to say a very big thank you for all the information that you have provided on your web site its fantastic.

I had my Op last week in the afternoon so I stayed in overnight and was discharged the next day which was Wednesday.

Whilst in hospital I was given a nerve block before surgery to numb my leg for up to 12 hrs which took more like 20hrs to subside, I also had a PCA which contained morphine, which I could click every five minutes for pain relief. Apparently I didn’t use my PCA enough as I still felt pain and the nurses said Id hardly used any..I think I was out of it. Anyway when I came home on Wednesday afternoon that’s when all pain hit, I felt like chopping my leg off. Especially at night.

Thursday I could only do 2 of the exercises without help…but the leg lifts my husband had to help me.

Friday, today I woke up okay…have been up all day…my exercises went fantastic am now ready to start increasing sets. Also walked a few steps without the use of crutches.

My knee is still really swollen and am still using cold packs to reduce the swelling, yet my pain is about a 3 walking alone.

My question is should I still continue with the crutches or not. Or how long should I wait?

I’m being very careful not to twist my knee at this point as that kills, also I was never given a brace after surgery as my surgeon felt that it would take longer to heal.

My Answer:

Before I answer your main question let me just say that on mt first ACL surgery I had a very similar experience in the hospital. I went a full 9-10hrs shortly after surgery with no nurse coming to provide any painkillers. Once the pain comes it can be really hard to get rid of!

For people that have the option of staying in a hotel or your home with someone taking care of you let me suggest that option.

Now, regarding the question… should you continue using the crutches after ACL surgery? The sooner you start using your leg and not relying on the crutches the faster you will recover. If you can take a couple steps without crutches in a CONTROLLED environment it will decrease your recovery time. But be careful, dont put yourself into a position where you would use the crutches but dont have them.



For example I know one person who decided to go on a shopping trip the week after her ACL surgery and decided she was doing well walking around the home without crutches so she didnt bring them. She ended up walking that afternoon way further than she had before and her knee swelled up like a balloon and had to call security to help her into a wheelchair and out of the mall.

Bottom line is you should always be trying to gently increase the ability of your knee but never put it into a situation it can not handle with no back up plan.

The Top 5 At Home Exercises
I did that helped get me walking 4 days after surgery

Click Here to see the exercises


  1. Tiff Simpson says:

    I had my surgery a week ago and am slowly starting to work myself off of the crutches.

    If I wasnt pushing myself I would probably choose to stay on the crutches for a few weeks but I know that would slow my recovery time.

    Great question asked here

  2. David Bailey says:

    Had ACL surgery on 5/3/12. I am 59 and a very strong skier, I bruised my MCL and tore my right ACL traversing through in an icy area on 2/25/12. Ihave no ACL in left knee from bump skiing in 1980. I waited to get my body and MCL healed some before this surgery.

    Day 5 now it it is still real swollen and purple. range of motion not much . Any suggestions?

  3. Hey Jon, good work on the website, I really enjoy it. I’m scheduled for ACL surgery on 5/1/12 and have a 4 hr written test 5/5/12. I know the walking after surgery part varies from person to person; however, my question is assuming I can walk by then, would sitting in a chair for 3-4 hrs cause any setbacks in rehabilitation or mostly just be uncomfortable? Thanks a lot I appreciate your opinion.

  4. Sorry the dates were 6/1/12 and 6/5/12. Obviously, I guess!

  5. Max, I would *highly* suggest that if this test is important to you to either postpone the test for a month or two at the least or postpone the surgery until after the test.

    While I could concentrate 4-6 hours a day about 4 days after my ACL surgery, I could not have geared up for a tough college exam nor concentrated enough to do as well as I could have without the surgery.

  6. What type of graft did you have?

    Regardless, due to all of the fluid build-up that occurs in your knee after this type of surgery, it’ll be swollen and eventually it will drain down through your lower leg and cause you pain there as well.

    1. Ice often. Do you have a cryo-cuff? That really helped me. Once I was able to, I used bags of ice 3-4 times a day for 30-45 minutes. That kept the swelling down and dulled the pain.

    2. Wrap it in an ace bandage after icing. This will help “encourage” the fluid to move away from your knee.

    3. Elevate it. Always keep your knee above your heart and try to keep your leg straight.

    4. Have a couple of beers or a shot of your favorite liquor. This worked better than morphine for me.

  7. Get as much weight as tolerable on your bad leg as soon as you can.

    Start by standing next to a table or counter top and just try to stand with even weight on both legs/feet.

    When using crutches, apply as much weight to your bad leg as possible. They are not meant to prevent you from touching your bag leg/foot to the ground.

    Without crutches, take baby steps at first. Try doing it somewhere where you have support on both sides. By Day 5 – Day 8 you should be able to take baby steps if not good-sized steps. Sure, you’ll limp a bit but that’s fine.

    I pushed it and I mean I really, really pushed my early exercises and stretches and I was gingerly walking around my house on Day 6. I used the handrails to get up and down stairs. I wasn’t able to walk up stairs normally until about week 2-3 and down stairs until week 4.

  8. Thx Bogut. It was a fire dept test, so I couldn’t really postpone and I’ve been waiting for surgery for about 5 months now and really want to get rehab started. I ended up just missing out, there’ll be others and the 1 hr drive to and from combined w/ the test time would have been too much time not iceing. Thanks again for the advice though.

  9. I found your website from your Youtube via gogle – hope tha made sense – thanks for posting.
    I could not find your timeline but I was wondering when did the swelling go down for you. I am into my six week post-op. Able to walk and doing Bosu Ball one leg balance, seated hamstring curl, leg press, heel touches, biking about 20 mins a day at level 10 (out of 20). There is still occasional swelling. I also enjoyed your hiking post after 8 weeks since I am an avid hiker.
    Thanks again for this website!

  10. First make sure your doctor allows weight bearing after surgery. Some will want no weight for up to 4 weeks depending upon graft selection and meniscus repair. I have had it done 4 times and the average time has been around 10 days. Maybe 12 to fully get rid of limp. Just remember to protect that graft early and choose the right graft for your life style.

  11. Hi,

    I’m 17 years old and had surgery 8 days ago. I had the patella tendon graft.
    I would like to start walking around without crutches soon. I can bear a decent amount of weight on my leg however sometimes I feel like my knee is going to buckle or it simple can’t hold my weight. Is this bad, or should I push past this feeling? Also, is it possible to re-injure yourself by simply walking?

  12. Kate i had my 4 th done with patella on July 17th. I can bear most weight now. Be careful not to push too far until after your stitches are gone and you are under the care of a physical therapist. Your PT will let you know when you can drop crutches. Your surrounding muscles must be strong enough to protect graft. Dropping from two to crutch is a good transition as well. There are no prizes for losing crutches early. You can damage the new graft if you buckle. Good luck and email me if you have any questions.

  13. Samantha says:

    My daughter is 15, injuryed playing soccer. Had surgery (patella) July 26th. Had followup today and Doc told her she could stop use crutch but must wear her brace. She was do excrises 3x a day and will start with PT tomorrow.

  14. bill kenik says:

    no acl in your left knee for 30 years?

    how many times has your left knee given out in that time and how were you able to ski all that time?

    i tore my left acl in august 1981 and had it reconstructed in january 1992.

    it gave out 4 times during that time.

    and i never skied during that time.

  15. Shannon Gillette says:

    Had ACL surgery using patellar tendon 2 days ago. I am somewhat surprised at how much better my knee feels. I partially tore my left ACL getting on a horse 4 mos ago. Had surgery 1 month later but the Dr just fixed the meniscus & trimmed the torn ligament up. After that I tried to resume working & riding (I am a competative 3 day event rider). My knee was never stable & incredibly painful whether walking, teaching or riding. After 3 mos the Dr agreed to going back in to do the total reconstruction. 2 days post op & my knee is already so much more stable…yay! Physical Therapy starts on Tuesday & I am so excited to get going with all this. Thanks for the website…very informative!