ACL Surgery recovery timelines do vary but here is a general timeline that I will be following. This timeline is based on my experience from the first ACL surgery recovery timeline I followed and I will use it as my guiding rehab plan this time. It is much easier to get through recovery when you have milestones and goals in mind. I encourage you to take this recovery timeline and modify it to be used by yourself. Download a free recovery timeline here.
I have broken down the goals by week below and will provide updates on how I am doing against the goals.
What to track?
“what gets measured gets improved”
These are the key performance indicators I will keep track of over my recovery
- Extension ( most important for the first week)
- Flexion (how close your heel can come to your butt)
- Weight bearing
- Ability to walk without crutches
- Ability to drive (right leg surgery)
- Ability to walk without a limp up and down stairs
- Unrestricted return to sports
These are 13 of the key indicators I will track to determine how my knee is progressing in relation to this knee recovery timeline. Below shows the goals broken down by week
Week 1 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
Walking without crutches
1. Extension - this is my main focus this week as recommended by my orthopedic surgeon and as recommended in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Goal is to have 100% extension by the end of the week
- Flexion - Goal of flexion is to achieve 90* or greater at the end of week 1
- Pain – Manage pain on a scheduled routine that maintains it to within a 1-3 / 10
- Weight Bearing - My goal is to be 100% weight bearing on my right leg 1/2 way through week one
- Walking without crutches with a minimal limp is the second most important goal for week #1
- Strength and Balance - I will do all the acl surgery recovery exercises(link) and minimize muscle loss as much as possible
Other Goals for the first Week after ACL surgery…
- Reduce swelling to a minimum
- hydrate – drink lots of water
- rest – 8 hr
“week 1 of my ACL surgery recovery will be a success if I can have 0 degree extension and be walking without crutches.”
Weed 2 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
over 100 degree range of motion and no more crutches
- Extension - maintain 0* extension
- Flexion - improve to 100*
- Pain - manage on 1 extra strength tylenol every 4 hours. Maintain to below a 2-3 / 10
- Weight Bearing – 100% without problem at the end of week 2
- Walking with a continuing to improve limp
- Srength and balance exercises should increase slightly in intesity to ensure my body continues to have to adapt
Week 2 is all about continuing the momentum of week 1 and improving on walking.
“Week 2 will be a success if I can put the crutches away for good”
Week 3 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
Back in the drivers seat and walking up and down stairs
- Extension - 0* comfortably
- Flexion – improve to 110*
- Pain – Tylenol extra strength only as required
- 100% weight bearing and crutches not used at all in week 3
- Driving starting on good weather days(December in Canada not the best time for an unsturdy knee to be behind the wheel)
- Strength exercises continue exercises
- Ability to walk up and down stairs is the big challenge in week #3
“Week 3 will introduce 2 new challenges the first being driving, weather permitting, for short periods of time and the second is walking up and down stairs.”
Week 4 of ACl Surgery Recovery Timeline
Return to work
- Flexion - improve to 120*
- Crutches not used during week 4
- riving daily 15minutes to work
- Stength and Balance exercises to increase in intensity
- Stairs continue to be the challenge in week 4
“Week 4 is a success if I am cleared to return to work”
Month 2 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
Now the hard work starts with more intense physio sessions and home exercises designed to get my quad and hamstring muscles back in shape and able to handle the knee.
- Flexion - The goal is to have the active and passive range of motion at the 100% complete mark by the end of week number 8.
- Strength - Work with elastic bands begins and additional acl surgery recovery exercises(LINK) are added to the routine
- Balance - Specific balance work is to begin to help stabilize the knee
- Jogging - At the end of week 8 some light jogging may be able to be started
The second month is about shifting from the acute rehab stage to the muscle building and longer term outlook on rehabilitation
“Month 2 in the recovery process if full range of motion is achieved and I can lightly jog on the knee”
Month 3 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
Close to full strength
- Strength – Near full lower extremity strength
- Balance – returned to near normal right leg balance
- Jogging light jogging weeks 8-12 will be occurring
The third month is about strength and balance returning to my right leg. This is in preperation for the more intense ACL rehab which will occur weeks 12-16(month 4).
“almost equal strength should return to my right leg by month 3 with balance only slightly worse on my right leg”
Month 4 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
Time to start jumping
Strength, balance and jogging continue in the 4th month
Jumping exercises will be introduced to the rehab routine with the aim of getting my knee back in a condition where it can be loaded and unloaded without pain or imbalances.
“The first weeks will involve slow controlled jumping and will increase in intesnisty as I become more comfortable”
Month 5 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
Time to run in circles and corners
5 Months after ACL surgery the recovery moves into sport specific and isolated leg exercises including
Strength, balance and jogging continue to build the foundation of the rehab routine
Jumping - sport specific exercises isolating the right leg
Cutting - slow controlled cutting will be started in month 5
“being able to run on angles at 50-75% speed on even terrain will show good signs that I am on my way to recovery”
Months 6-9 of ACL Surgery Recovery Timeline
Return to sport
Although I may physically be ready for a full return to sports I will make sure to take it easy this time as I was given the all clear last time I had ACL surgery at 8months which resulted in a re-tear. Ultimately my main goal for returning to sports is to be able to hike, camp and mountain bike this summer(5 months post operative), play baseball and tennis next fall(8 months post surgery) and ski next winter(12 months). If everything goes well for these easier(on my knee) sports I will look at returning to Soccer, Rugby, Volleyball the following year.
About this Surgery Recovery Timeline…
The timeline I have written out here is based on research I have done online including other personal stories such as http://aclsurgeryrecovery.blogspot.com/ and Accelerated rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. (http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/18/3/292.short)
The ACL surgery recovery timeline I have laid out for myself is likely to change as I get more involved in my rehab. I will update my progress as it compares to the plan as time goes by and hopefully this schedule will be a reasonable motivator for me to continue with my rehab and I can be certain that this ACL surgery recovery will be my last!
If you have any suggestions to make as to how I can improve my timeline please let me know. Or if you can share any links to other timelines you or someone else has used please put it in the comments below.
The Top 5 At Home Exercises
I did that helped get me walking 4 days after surgery
Click Here to see the exercises