ACL Recovery – Month One

Recovery from ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction surgery is a long and slow road. In addition to the obvious pain, inconvenience and immobility following surgery, the many hours of physiotherapy and rehabilitation are a real and ongoing burden.

The one thing I have learned is there is no point undergoing surgery if you are not committed to doing the hard yards afterwards – rehab exercises are a mandatory requirement, not a discretionary one when it comes to ACL recovery.

I underwent surgery one month ago. The surgery involved replacing the lost ACL with a graft collected from my hamstring. The reconstruction was performed via arthroscopic surgery and resulted in two small scars on either side of the knee plus a longer scar below the knee, where the hamstring was harvested for the graft.

ACL surgery scars

The surgery took around two hours and I was in hospital overnight. I woke up with my knee heavily dressed and in a brace.

In hospital, post ACL surgery

RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation) was commenced and I relied on an arm-rest walking frame to move about for the first 24 hours – like the one depicted below. I felt a whole lot older than my 40 years, I can tell you…

Forearm Walker - post ACL recovery

image source

Thanks to heavy duty painkillers (morphine and endone) I was relatively comfortable in hospital. And I was sent home with panadeine forte and oral inflammatories too so I was not really with it for the first week or so. As a result I may have had too much fun playing around with my many tablets.

Fun with tablets - ACL recovery

I was also sent home with a pair of crutches that I relied on heavily for those first few weeks. It’s difficult to get around otherwise…

Crutches -

I stayed on the bottom level of my house for the first 4 nights, dozing on the couch. It was struggle enough to move to the toilet and impossible in those first few days to navigate the stairs with an immobile leg. I tried to see the bright side of my confinement, tagging my photos in that first week with #viewfrommycouch


The aim of the first two weeks is to recover by continuing to follow the RICE protocol and start with slow and gentle exercises in order to regain full movement of the knee.

The knee is swollen, stiff and sore. There is bruising everywhere – centred around the graft site, down the inner side of the leg and further down near the ankle, the result of pooled fluid from swelling. The knee brace presses on all the bruised places and is just plain uncomfortable! It’s not a fun time but it doesn’t last forever – thank goodness.

ACL Recovery

I went back to physio a couple of days after my operation and it was hard. Mentally hard as much as being physically hard. It hurt to actually get into the car. Every bump on the way jarred my knee. Then when I got there my bandages were removed and I had to work through my fear and move my knee. That first attempt terrified me.

The first visit was all about helping my knee regain a little movement, reduce the swelling and gently massage & activate muscles that had been inactive for a while. In the weeks since, the visits have involved more work and more movement exercises, designed to improve movement and strength in the whole leg.

I attend physio twice a week and each session takes about 2 hours. I then spend at least one hour each day completing my exercises in between visits. The aim is to regain full movement and normal gait. By the end of the year I hope to be able to walk normally and even start walking with pace again.

I may even be able to recommence jogging in the new year, although tennis won’t be on the horizon until next September. The knee will need a full year to recover and for the new ligament to be strong enough to withstand the rigours of full-on sport again.

In the meantime I’m making progress. My physio says I’m a week ahead of schedule so far and has given his okay for me to start driving again. I had my first drive today and felt no pain or discomfort at all. I just need to work on my stamina which will come in time, particularly if I continue to be diligent with my exercises.

I’m beginning to walk up stairs properly now, although the knee still feels stiff and sore and unnatural as I climb stairs. Walking down stairs properly is still a week or two away – it’s a little more challenging on my knee and my leg as a whole.

But at least I’m making progress. One month on and I can see there will be an end. One day.

But for now, I’m committed to do all I can to improve and reclaim my independence.

And to one day walk without a limp again!

Spread the positivity!
Follow by Email

You may also like...

20 Responses

  1. Lydia C. Lee says:

    What a trouper!It’s such a hard slog, revovery….(apparentlymy spacebaris broken….argh!)
    Lydia C. Lee recently posted..Watch the cents

  2. Deborah says:

    Oh… it sounds like you’re on the right track for recovery Kirsty! I love your comment about it being pointless unless you’re going to put in the hard yards. I’ve looked after my mum through separate hip and knee replacement operations and (though neither were massively successful) she’s always been very committed to rehab – does exercises once/twice daily, has physio etc… But I know of some of her friends who are very lax on the rehab front but complain later when their recovery doesn’t go as planned.

    I see jogging in your not-too-distant future!
    Deborah recently posted..Cheer Chick Charlie by Leanne Shea Langdown

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Deb. It was made abundantly clear to me by both my surgeon and physio that if I chose the path of surgery I had to be committed to the rehab. So far, so good!

  3. Love the photo of phone in protective case shooting knee in protective case. All the best for your rehab and recovery.
    Ed @ The Tunnel recently posted..North Queensland Cowboys change their name after getting premiership ring

  4. I often think that surgery is the easy party (you get to lie down and have a sleep after all) but the recovery is when the hard yakka really begins. Time (and physio) is a great healer and it looks like you are stepping in the right direction. Love your “pill art” – if you have to take that many drugs, you might as well make some masterpieces with them!
    Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted..The Ultimate Rabbit Hole #39

  5. I can’t believe you even want to go back to playing tennis. If it was me I’d be avoiding that like forever, given all this you’ve had to go to because of it.
    Toni @ Finding Myself Young recently posted..When your child breaks you.

    • Kirsty says:

      You sound like Nathan – he can’t believe that I want to go back to it either! I’ve played tennis for the majority of my life so I would feel incomplete without it – but I promise to try and take things a little slower when I finally get back on the court!

  6. That is great your recovery is going well and you are a week ahead of schedule. Good on you for keeping up the exercises. Hopefully you recovery keeps on the up and up.
    Karin @ Calm to Conniption recently posted..The Ultimate Rabbit Hole #39: Creative Noodles

  7. Best of luck for your full recovery.
    When I have moments of forced downtime I try to put a spin on it and make use of the chance to sit and catch up.
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted..Fall Trips or Spring Break Ideas

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Sally. I’m definitely moving in the right direction – I’m just naturally impatient and want to be fully recovered yesterday!

  8. Grace says:

    Oh Kirsty, looks bloody painful! And those painkillers! MASSIVE! Glad to hear you’re well and truly on the road to recovery. Sending healing vibes and big hugs x
    Grace recently posted..FYBF – The Feather Touch

    • Kirsty says:

      Thanks Grace. Doing much better now, 5 weeks post op. Having said that, I’ve had two massive days with another big one coming up tomorrow, so the knee is quite sore and swollen. I just need to take it easy when I can. Ice and nurofen are my friends!!!

  9. Selene says:

    Great post! Recovery is certainly not easy, but it is all well worth it in the end. Thanks for sharing!

  1. December 9, 2015

    […] must confess that after the relentless monotony of Month One, time is now passing a whole lot faster than I anticipated, which has been very welcome for this […]

  2. January 14, 2016

    […] don’t forget to check out my ACL recovery progress from Month One, Month Two and Month Three to catch up with my recovery so […]

  3. February 10, 2016

    […] Month One […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Positive Special Needs Parenting

Do you want to become a more positive special needs parent?


Sign up to grab your free guide now! Full of practical advice from a fellow special needs parent.

Go you - you\'re now on your way to becoming a more positive special needs parent!