Knee Range Of Motion Problems In The First Week After ACL Surgery

One and a half weeks after ACL surgery Meg, a reader, has concerns with her range of motion. Here is her story and some possible exercises which will help improve her range of motion, if you have anything to add please do so…

I broke my fibula in 2 places and tore my ACL and meniscus. My doctor made me wait 5 weeks for surgery because the swelling in my leg and knee was so severe. Due to the swelling, my range of motion for those 5 weeks was very limited. I was unable to do the basic quad, hamstring, and bike exercise because of the breaks in my leg. I had surgery a week and a half ago and while the pain is much much better, (easily an 8 the first 5 days, a 5-6 the few days after that, now a 2-3), I am extremely worried about my range of motion. I have been in a leg brace, and it has been locked in one position for weeks.

The doctor unlocked it a few days ago, but wants me to stay on crutches another week. PT starts in 2 days (exactly 2 weeks after surgery). How worried should I be about the pain during PT and how long will it take me to get full motion back? Right now if feels like my knee will snap if I force any movement past where it is right now. This process has been such a waiting game and I am ready to do whatever I need to do to get on my feet again.

Should I insist on a CPM machine? My doctor said he pushes PT rather than the machine, but I have had numerous people who have had the surgery more than once, say their recovery was much better with it, than without it.

After ACL Surgery

After ACL Surgery

Meg, first sounds like a brutal injury broken leg torn ACL and meniscus…impressive, please share how it happened!

Glad the pain is back to a manageable 2-3 did you find any of these 7 knee surgery pain management tips helped you?

Regarding the range of motion here are my thoughts. I believe one of the biggest indicators of how well you will do in recovery immediately after surgery is the condition of your knee and leg muscles going in, see why physical therapy before knee surgery is important. In your case your knee/leg was so wrecked that I am certain you wouldn’t have been able to do much and muscle atrophy was likely already starting to set in. Your doctor would have made you wait like you said for the swelling to go down before surgery.

The pain during ACL surgery rehab can really depend on your physio, generally the pain isnt much. A little discomfort, the idea is to push the knee but not cause actual pain. My physio is a little evil and enjoys causing pain in the muscles around the knee ie elbow “massages” on my IT bands with most of his weight.

To get back full range of motion after an injury like yours is really tough to say, I would imagine the 6 week mark would be a possible target but I may be way off. Share the injury story with your physio and they may be able to give a better guess.

I know the “knee will snap” feeling. My advice on that is to hold your knee in the uncomfortably straight and uncomfortably bent position for extended periods of time. Note “uncomfortably” and not “painfully”. Here are the best range of motion knee exercises for after ACL surgery.

I had a CPM machine the first surgery and didnt have one this surgery. Both surgeons said it was optional but they were both moving away from it. The advice I was given was that doing your exercises will get you further ahead than relying on a CPM machine.

To sum it up, Meg, you ruined your leg to an impressive degree(really tell us how you did it!) and I am sure your recovery will take longer than my wimpy cleanly torn ACL with minimal swelling.

If anyone else has something to add to help out Meg please do so in the comments!

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

Click Here to see the exercises


  1. Does anyone have any other tips for Meg?

  2. This is a question on the same topic…

    I tore my ACL a year ago and ignored the pain, I continued practising my athletics which I compete in at an international level. I got operated 3 weeks ago, with torn ACL and severe damage to meniscus. I’ve been in the brace with 0 degress flexation for 3 weeks now and after the operation the doctor said I could set it to 30 degrees on the 3rd week, but now he changed his story that it should only be 10 degrees… I am getting the feeling that my doctor doesn’t know what is going on and my knee feels fine to cope with 30 degrees (as i have no pain). What should I do and is it safe to trust my own body???

  3. Hi there,
    My names ryan, i tore my ACL in june and have only just been set a date for surgey in december ( thanks National health system).
    Anyway i am wondering how long it took for you to get off crutches after the surgery? Im on my feet for work 8 hrs a day an going up and down ladders etc. I need to get bqvk to work as soon as i can but don’t want to risk damaging it again.
    What sort of time frame will. Be looking at before im moble again? My quads and legs are relatively strong as i play a decent level of rugby but the few months of not having full motion in my knee have taken its toll.

    I appreciate any feedback you can give