We’ll end the ACL series this week (at least for now) by discussing the rehab process. I did quickly mention the overall goals of rehab but I will go into more detail in this post.
The first session involves a lot of explaining. We go over the exercises you’ll be doing several times a day. We also go over any questions you’ll have including what the plan is for the whole knee rehab. I also teach you how to use your crutches properly since you’ll be needing them at the beginning.
The exercises will be easy, but the swelling and pain make it harder.
Our first goal will be to get knee extension back as fast as possible. The other thing we’ll do is that we’ll look out for infection or anything that would need a medical check-up. It’s not that we won’t work on anything else, but our main focus will be on straightening the knee.
Having your knee able to fully straighten (extend) is especially important in walking, otherwise, you’ll compensate at the hip and ankle.
Knee flexion (bending) is also part of the first exercises given, but we focus on extension. The goal is always to get back every degree possible, but if we’re missing about 10 degrees from a full knee bend, we don’t worry. Most daily activities don’t need a full knee bend, so there’s less of a chance of compensations. Also, I’ve found that building muscle strength in the hamstrings helps to regain those last degrees. By the end of the rehab program, you should have your full range back since your muscle will be stronger.
So far I’ve focused the what we do with the knee, but we’re also working on the whole leg (including hip) and abdominals.
Once we have full extension and the leg feels strong enough, we focus on walking without crutches or canes. Now that standing is possible, we’re able to get you to do some exercises while standing.
Most people are able to walk 1 month after the surgery, but some will need more or less time.
Now that we have full extension and walking abilities, what’s next?
We’ll need to continue gaining knee flexion and overall strengthening of the leg. Most daily activities still need to be achieved (like stairs). The exercises will become more complex and harder (squats, lunge type). We’ll still make sure knee extension is maintained.
The entire rehab process is pushing you just enough so that you stress the muscles but not so much that you end up compensating and creating issues in other places. If all goes as planned, month 3 will be wrapping up the rehab-specific portion.
At Owen Performance, you’ll work with a strength and conditioning coach for the last month or two.
This is where you will prepare for your return to your sport. The goals will be to continue pushing the boundaries of strength and preparing your power and speed for whatever your sport needs.