3 Tips For Running After ACL Surgery – 4 Month Update

It has now been almost 4 months since I have right ACL surgery. My recovery has continued to progress reasonably well. My biggest lesson for learning how to run after ACL surgery is below…

This month I have been able to return to jogging outside. I had to slowly build up the distances I could run after ACL surgery without causing pain. I first started doing very short jogs on the treadmill in month 3 and then moved to short (1-2km) outside.

Below is a video of me running on snow with my Dog back at the end of March…

(I apologize for the possible motion sickness)

Finally within the last week I have been able to run 5km without much pain. My knee is noticeably warmer than my left knee after the run but no pain. I simply ice my knee while doing a little stretching after and seem to have no increased pain the next day.

The main problem is I am molasses slow 30 minutes…ouch!

So based on working back to being able to run comfortably after surgery here are my 3 Tips…

Running After ACL Surgery

Time To Dirty The Running Shoes

3 Tips For Being Able To Run After ACL Surgery

1. Start Slow and Start Early

My return to running after knee surgery schedule looked like this…

Week1-4: walking

Week 4-8: Slow short easy treadmill jogs

Week 12-13: 1-2km jogs outside

Week 13-14: 5km jog/walk

Week 14-16L 5km runs(not very fast though!)

2. Jumping & Balance ACL Surgery Exercises

It was not until I was able to start doing some simple jumping exercises in my 4th month after ACL surgery that I really started to feel comfortable running. Walking and slowly jogging on uneven terrain including sand and snow has been very helpful in getting my stability muscles around my knee firing again.

3. Get an Active Dog

Having a dog is a great motivational tool…for me my wife has been having to take most of the responsibilty of getting our active dog tired. So me being able to get back to walking/running/biking after ACL surgery has been very important

It has been bitter sweet to see spring come here in Canada…the snow has melted before my knee was ready to ski so it will have to wait until next year. However, it has been good getting back out on my bike and jogging.

Over the next month I look to continue my running/jumping and start some cutting exercises so that I will be able to return to sports.

How have all of you found running after ACL Surgery?

Comments

  1. I’m one month post-op and are doing basic PT exercises. The hardest part for me is not sticking with the PT but rather it’s trying not to rush my progress. It looks like you are doing great!

    I’m curious if you do wear a brace when you’re doing the more advanced exercises such as jumping, squats, jogging etc?

  2. Jon Haver says:

    Hope your recovery is continuing to go well. I dont wear my brace for much of anything…both from research and my own experience(I re-tore it while wearing a brace) I dont think the brace will stop me from re-tearing my knee. So no I dont wear the brace for any of the exercises. I figure if I am not strong enough yet to do an exercise without the brace than I am not yet strong enough to do the exercise.

  3. I agree, for re-hab exercises I dont’ think you need a brace once you clear the 4-6 week stage. My physio was very conservative and had me wear it for open kinetic exercises until I was cleared forlight sports by the surgeon at 3 months.

    I have had better luck with bracing than Jon. Prior to surgery, I had a complete ACL tear and was able to eventually return to competitive Tennis and ball hockey (at 90% pre-injury running level). So I will wear the brace for my return to cutting sports for 1 year post op then ditch it for good. Good luck!

  4. Praveen Chennadi says:

    Hello Jon Haver,
    My name is Praveen Chennadi,i am a computer Architect. I have torn ACL and Good portion of meniscus for my right knee on valentines day. my Doctor at Beacon Cincinnati performed surgery on 02/24 , i am doing PT for last 6 weeks.
    I found best/total information from your website. First of all thank you for sharing to everyone about your progress. your site helped me to set my Goals for recovery.

    1) Do you feel pressure, stiff and some pain during rainy conditions?
    2) When did you started stepping down stairs without pain also when your pain stopped completely. I stopped taking pain killers after 4 weeks. I can walk and one leg stand on injured leg now. Even i stopped wearing brace after 3rd week.
    3) what you do for Scar Tissue? its boring to do 1 hour massage.

  5. Jon Haver says:

    Praveen thanks for the appreciation. I will try and answer your questions…
    1. Yes when the barometer drops my knee get more sore. I dont think there is much you can do about this except suck it up…if you think of something let me know.
    2. I still get some sounds when walking straight down stairs….I was walking down stairs in the second week but it was more limping and then maybe around month 1.5 or so I was able to go down without much problem. Going down stairs depends mostly on how/where your meniscus was damaged.
    3.Scar tissue I haven’t done much. The occasional massage on it and ultrasound at physio but the scar tissue doesn’t really bother me much.

    Good luck with your recovery!

  6. hemanth says:

    Hi jon me hemanth you gave suggestion after acl surgery but still i have a pain and same symptoms happening now. i had a surgery last year of feb but there was no result can you suggest me and both knees and thighs are paining severely and i cant stand more than 5 mins that much my knees paining

  7. Rob Wren says:

    Just tore my right ACL for second time. Cannot figure how I retore a new knee, using cadaver part thought I was back. Hurt it playing tennis. Do we know much about re-tearing? Will my new knee always be weakest?

    Best-

    Rob

  8. I tried to return to work full time 5 weeks after my surgery. Even with ace bandages, elevating my leg & ice every few hours, my knee swelled up to balloon size. The doctor has cut me back to part time work. I’m frustrated with the continued pain & swelling. If I try to do any walking (1/3 mile), I’m awake all night with the knee throbbing. I want my life back. Both the doctor and the physical therapist tell me I’m doing well, but the length of recovery seems overwhelming to me. I’m glad you are able to run. I just want to be able to walk again.

  9. Hi everyone,
    Firstly Jon, great job on sharing your experience with others. I have had two ACL reconstructions (ie. both legs) that resulted from playing soccer, 8 years apart and I know it can be very rewarding to be able to help others through their challenges and recovery.

    Sue, I honestly feel for you. I had the same thing for a number of weeks after ACL surgery. I couldn’t walk very far without experiencing pain and swelling. People often get knee cap issues post ACL surgery and this interferes with the motion in your knee joint after a reconstruction. You may find that your Physio needs to give some attention to your knee cap (loosening, massaging) to help it “move in its groove” properly. There are ways you can do this yourself reguarly too which will ease the discomfort. I was able to eventually get rid of the pain from walking (though running was another story).
    The other thing you can do is make sure you’ve done your bending and straightening exercises to ensure your knee has its full normal range back as quickly as possible.

    All the best everyone!
    Ben Hannan

  10. Jon Haver says:

    Ben, thanks for the help…good tips!

  11. Alyssa B says:

    I tore my ACL in January while I was skiing and had surgery done in March (I waited so I could finish out my swim season). As of today it is 7 weeks post-op. My ROM is 0-145, I can go up and down stairs normally, and I have no pain or discomfort other than a minimal amount doing certain exercises at therapy. At most I’d say the pain during exercises is a 1 on the pain scale. Based on my current standing, when do you think I’ll be able to start jogging again? And will cross country be possible for me, which starts officially in August?

  12. Jon Haver says:

    I think you will be able to do Cross Country with some restriction…you will be 5 months post op and I started running 4 months post op. As for when you can start ask your physio but I wouldnt start before atleast the 10 week mark and make sure what you are running on is smooth and you start slow. Good luck!

  13. Alyssa B says:

    Thanks! Can’t wait to get back to running!

  14. Rob,

    I actually have torn my left acl 3 times. I just had reconstruction for third time (this time with cadaver Achilles tendon). My doc (who is an nfl team doctor) said that I just have bad luck, that my knee is weak and I am just predisposed to tearing it. I know that doesn’t help much, but that is what he had to offer.

    For what it is worth, each surgery has been easier to recover from. This last surgery I have been almost 100% pain free since week 3. I am now 2 months post op and my operative leg quad is at 80% strength, and my operative leg hamstring is actually at 104% of my good leg. My recovery, both from a pain and strength point of view, is much much better this go around.

  15. Hi! i tore my right acl in February and had the surgery in march. My pt says i’m the fastest he’s ever seen recover and have felt close to no pain since the surgery. I started running 2 months post op and am still going strong. Do you thinks its possible for me to return to fieldhockey in august? I really want to and my team needs me, i just dont want to retear it after all i went through.

  16. Jon Haver says:

    Jenna congrats on the quick recovery…returning to field hockey at the 5 month mark is definitely aggressive and probably wouldn’t recommend it. Make sure to continue doing your physio along with cutting drills and you may be able to return before the season is out! Talk with both your Physio and surgeon about returning to competitive field sports.

  17. Hey Jon. Your website is so helpful. I am 6 months post-op and I have started to play tennis again. When I run it doesn’t hurt but I have a slight limp. I can run fast but I think I am afraid of putting pressure on my knee when I run, which is what is causing the limp. My leg feels different than my other leg so when I run I’m not balanced. Is this normal and how do I fix it? Also when I try to put on my brace I can’t tell if the hinge is in the right place. Is there a specific spot on the side of your knee that it is suppose to line up with?
    Thank you so much,
    Quynh

  18. Jon Haver says:

    Hi Quynh, congrats on the good recovery. Regarding the running too fast and limping….my thinking is its probably more important to get back to running without a limp at whatever speed you feel comfortable doing that and then continually try and increase the speed but never give up the “no-limping”

  19. Maurice T says:

    Hi Jon, I tore my LCL on April 11. so far its been 8 weeks. the doctor says the recovery time is the same as an ACL tear. I’ve been doing physical therapy and i’m still not able to get it as straight as my other leg and bend it all the way back. Is that a bad sign? Also, I’m still wearing my brace because the Dr. doesnt want me to slip and fall and re-tear it. I’ve been doing the bike and elyptical but no jogging yet. I hope i can revocer 100% Do you think I’m doing good so far? Thanks for your help Jon, take care.

  20. Hey Jon! I tore my left ACL in January but just had surgery two weeks ago (June 1) because well in Canada it takes a while to get surgery, etc. I am 2 weeks post-op and am walking with weight-bearing on crutches & doing simple exercises like mini-squats and heel slides on the advice of my PT. The thing is I work with kids all summer as a daycamp leader & I’m scheduled to start July 4th. I will be a little over 4 weeks post op then. It is a relatively physical job, where I have to be able to somewhat jog & swim, etc. I am scheduled to get fitted for a brace Monday. My question is how mobile will I realistically be with a brace by then & does the brace protect the graft sufficiently? I absolutely love my job & can’t imagine not doing it, but am I risking re-injury? I can deal with swelling & pain (thanks to the cryo cuff!!!!!) but will I even be able to push it?
    Thanks for posting this though! It kind of gave me hope! :)
    Thanks, Celina

  21. My PT said to line up the brace hinge with the upper two bore holes from surgery. These are right along the knee axis.

  22. Hi, I had an ACL reconstruction in Feb 2001 and for the first 10years everything was great, occassional swelling after a couple of years but nothing else. I completed a marathon and did lots of training for it, again no problems (this was in 2007) Then about 4 months ago (May 2011) I have started getting pain and swelling EVERYTIME i run. I tried swimming and walking instead as they were less impact and no joy. I am currently in the process of re-joining the army (it was the army who did the initial operation) and I am too scared to go to my doctor as I dont want anything on my medical record sayingI have had a problem following ACL surgery as they will not let me rejoin. It has only happened in the last couple of months. I am rejoining as a musician so I wont be on frontline or anything but i am scared this could be arthritus? Is this normal and should I just rest it do you think or is it something more serious? There is very little information regarding acl reconstruction problems 11 years on. Everyone seems to just be saying that they are having problems after a few months but this is normal as it is a major operation. I did physio for approx 12 months and it was intensive and everyday as I was still serving then so all paid for by the army. I have stayed fit and active (mainly running) for the last 10 years so am a little scared as to why it has suddenly changed?

    Thank you for your page by the way, it is great and fantastic to hear from ‘real’ people instead of just doctors who havent even been through it!

    Alison

  23. Sue,

    I know that certain foods are good at combating the inflammation. Going gluten free will help the inflammation. Vitamins C, D, and E are also good for healing soft tissues. Do your own research on this. I’ve been doing this as well. My daughter is recovering from ACL, meniscus, and a lateral release. She is 3 weeks post op and I have kept her nutrition extremely strict. Lots of water, no sodas….etc…

  24. Hey everyone, great website i had acl surgery on my right knee 5 weeks ago and i can tell you this is worst then giving birth!!! I am very active run about 40 miles a week do yoga and learning to be patience is tricky. I have been staying in shape since week one by weight training upper body and doing a intense ab work out, i am so looking forward to running again, good luck to all, take care and be patient!!

  25. Gwynn Ellicott says:

    Aloha Jon,

    I am a 46 yr old female and will be getting a cadaver ligament in my rt knee next week. I am actually a personal trainer and use to be very active, however, since I blew my acl totally out 4 years ago, my knee is really unstable and it limits me from fitness walking, running, hiking, skiing and even swimming sometimes!! A bummer big time :-(
    I am wondering if anyone out there has had this type of ligament put in and if they are in my age group. I would like to know how the recovery was, and what you are able to do now.
    Thank you~
    Gwynn

  26. Hi Alison,

    I stumbled upon this thread because I’m 6.5 yrs post surgery and wanted to see if a lot of people can run marathons after surgery. I completely tore my ACL, partially tore my MCL and had 2 meniscus tears from an injury playing soccer. This happened my senior yr in high school and couldn’t finish PT before I went off to college so I did it on my own at my college gym, so my recovery regimen was less intense than what you describe. I waited 2 years before I started playing soccer in adult rec leagues. I keep myself active as well and haven’t had any problems until the last couple months. I know you said you have no idea how yours changed suddenly, but I’m pretty sure mine was from a soccer game when my knee gave out. It felt fine afterwards, no pain, just a little off, but ever since, it starts hurting very shortly after starting any exercise routine.

    I’m sorry I can’t give you more info to help you with your situation, but I agree that the focus seems to be for people who are recovering <1 year, and after that your on your own. Also the consensus among most people that have had any surgery that I've talked to is that arthritis is an unavoidable curse that comes with going under the knife. Maybe doctors don't want to use that term on us, but arthritis is basically swelling of the joints, which is what happens to us all the time after intense workouts and during damp weather. Personally I don't think you should let this scare you from rejoining, just assume you have it and do your own at home remedies and therapy to keep your knee stable and strong.

  27. Samantha Piedrahita says:

    Its been five months since my acl surgery i did therapy for a liitle while put i stopped i havent done much cuz of school but i would love to Know great workouts for my knee to get stronger so i can play sports and start traning for baskerball again by the summer.

  28. Hi! I am a 28 year old female and am about 5 1/2 months out from my ACL surgery (Aug 15). I’ve been jogging (can’t exactly call it running!) for about a month now. I go for about 10 minutes on a treadmill and am running at a pace of 4.5 miles/hr. Somedays I feel like I can go longer than the 10 minutes but most of the time I get some kind of nagging pain along the left side of my knee and end up really wanting to stop. I am working hard at strengthening my quads but I was wondering, did you experience pain when running? If so how did you deal with it? At this point, I’m mostly insure of what is safe and not safe to do. I feel better, I’m anxious to get back playing sports, but I a scared to death of re-tearing. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  29. Do you wear a neoprene sleeve, when it gets cold?

  30. Praveen Chennadi says:

    I am in to my 11 months after surgery, Here is few personnel experiences would like to share
    1) felt big change personally as not able to fly every week for my travel job, you can feel slight stiffness and pain after every flight. This made me few impacts on my recovery.
    2) I am fine with most of normal activities, how ever still not active in Tennis, Cricket…….., big change you feel when you nail down( not advised to do until 2 years), stretching
    Is must for sports. It’s not just go and play like before.
    3) personally advice just take one step of progress with out time line ( there is no generic recovery). This will help not to tear or damage other time.
    4) never think about weak leg as torn leg, this will impact everything. Try to stay as normal and forget about impact leg helps lot.
    5) I felt very good in tropical weather or hot weather when compare to cold weather. This is also key for rehab

    Thanks JON and everyone for sharing comments, good luck for staying healthy

    It varies on your age for recovery 20 30 40 50+ is not same

  31. Praveen Chennadi says:

    Hello Sue,
    I hope you should be running now with out any pain. In general what I noticed may help everyone.

    When standing in cruise mode we try to lock the knee, that’s when all issues starts. Please do not lock, it impacts blood circulation.

    I noticed when driving long distances, after 4-5 hours continuous driving, you feel lot of stiffness while walking for next 10-15 minutes. Than it’s normal

  32. Hi, I was in a motorbike accident and completely ruptured my ACL, sustained a grade 3 tear of MCL, LCL strain and PCL damage, meniscus tear and fractured Femur.
    I was assessed as being too injured to even be considered for surgery. The surgeon was concerned about my MCL as he said surgically its very difficult to repair, so he sent me away with a leg brace and said keep it between 0-30 degrees for 9 weeks and we will reassess.
    I decided against pain killers from day one, and used ice religiously for 6 weeks.
    I used various natural techniques to heal myself and when I went back after 9 weeks the surgeon was very surprised at my progress, he sent me away for another six weeks.
    I continued my healing techniques and was walking normally.
    Its been 5 months since my accident and I can cycle without pain for long distances, I can run on a treadmill fine as well.
    I have started running outdoors now on hard ground and after a very short period I get pains in the knee that make me stop.
    I have a heard that pain is good and to work through it, oher people say pain is bad and just stop.
    I read that the footballer Roy Keane when he was rehabbing his post ACL injury was told by his physio to work through the pain and the pain was good (its in his autobiog).
    By the way, I still have not had ACL surgery so I am speaking as someone who has no ACL in his left knee right now, I have started doing cutting and pivoting exercises and have not felt instability yet, so if my progress continues, I may avoid surgery altogether and return to sports like soccer and tennis without an ACL.

  33. Hi Jon, is there any type of rehab that I can do to keep up with what I’ve been doing with my PT? I had reconstructive surgery on my acl three weeks ago and have been going to PT faithfully for two weeks. My insurance has been terminated over the weekend and there’s no way I can pay for PT without it.

    So is it possible to do some rehab on my own? I have a full gym at home including a airdyne cycle and a concept rower. I’m also a personal trainer part time but don’t have any specific training in sports rehab.

    So far in PT I only have been doing stretching and cycling but no weight bearing exercises. I was told to not apply any weight on my leg until I’m off crutches and I’ve been fitted for my knee brace.

  34. If you don’t mind me replying. I’m 6-7 weeks into rehab.

    The counsel I’ve been given is no weight-bearing or walking for 4 weeks, but plenty of bending and straightening with hamstring stretches. Also exercise bike without any resistance.

    The past 2-3 weeks I’ve been slowly adding loads to the exercise bike and making sure to walk without any limping.

    The critical point is that when bending my leg with a load (i.e. not lying down) my knee is not to go beyond the front of my toe, to avoid stress on the graft.

    Still daily icing.

  35. It’s been almost a year since I had the surgery. Your website has been a huge help on my journey.

    Reading about your experiences and lessons has helped me keep my motivation to continue my path to recovery. I was even able to complete a hilly half marathon last weekend!

    I want to avoid reiterating your/others advices on this site but I will say two things: You want to really strengthen both legs so it’ll take the strain off the ligaments! Secondly, don’t overestimate your body’s capability! It is best to err on the side of caution than to be too aggressive and retear your ACL.

  36. Donna, I would have to agree with you 100% about the “This being worse than giving birth comment” That is exactly what I told my PT and I certainly wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

    It has been a frustrating thing to go through for sure, I always question myself through it all weather I’m recovering properly based on how long it’s been since surgery. Can I be doing more to recover faster?

    Well I’m 11 weeks after surgery and I remember a couple weeks ago feeling like I had plateud because my knee was so stiff. I ended up making an appointment to see the doctor to make sure my recovery was up to date because I was concerned about the stiffness. Just to have the doctor say “what are they doing in therapy holding your hand over there”. That confirmed it for me.

    I went home that night determined to get pass this hump. While doing heel slides “MY FAVORITE EXERCISE” NOT! I bent it to the extreme measure my body could handle and ended up in tears, but it seemed to work.

    I had been so anxious after surgery thinking if I work hard and do everything they tell me to do I can be back to exercising and playing soccer which I miss so much! But then realized that it was going to take alot more patience then I had imagined.

    After reading these posts I have come to the sad realization that I won’t be able to safely return to playing soccer until a year after surgery, “IF I’m smart. So now I have accepted that fact and have developed a different perspective for it all.

    As long as I am seeing healthy progress by pacing my exercise and activity I’m confident that things will be as I remembered them to be. So I encourage all who read this to work hard but also take your time and be patient when expecting the results. I think we all know how frustrating it can be at times but in enough time your body will naturally heal itself.

  37. I had my acl reco about 2 years ago, i started walking on it about a week out of hospital, a couple of months later i tried a bit of running but my knee got really sore and stiff, i just assumed it wasnt ready to start running on it.
    I tried to go for a bit of a run a few times since then but my knee just felt thrashed, i cant run without limping, now last few days iv been trying to learn to run on it, somtimes its worse than others.
    I just jog for a few hundred meters then walk a few hundred then jog again and so on. Iv never been into running sports much so im not very fit, but i like running and im hoping if i just keep trying to run on it it will come good in time.

  38. Just had my ACL done on my right knee 4 weeks ago. Had really no problem other then the lack of active and slow passage of time with recovery. I completely tore my ACL trying to ride a horse(got bucked off), never had a lot of pain or lack of ROM prior to surgery. Kept my right leg strong prior to surgery and also evaluated a lot. Did the same thing right after surgery to and have been doing good. In fact too good because my PT told me to find a craft to keep me busy. Keeping the swelling done and your extension straight was the trick for me along with ice all the time. Get a lot of pillows and someone to help you and you should do great. My husband was great. Good luck hope you do well. P.S. I’m 45 soon to to be 46 in 5 days.

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