ACL Recovery – Month Two
Today marks 9 weeks since I underwent ACL reconstruction surgery. It’s been both the longest as well as the fastest period of my life. The first month seemed to go on forever – time definitely passes more slowly when you are confined to home and limited in movement.
However once you start recommencing the normal activities of everyday life, time seems to accelerate until you suddenly realise that you no longer need to ice your knee every night and that your limp is now barely noticeable. This is the paradox of ACL recovery – it all seems so slow to begin with until you look back and realise just how far you have come…
My knee today – 9 weeks post ACL reconstruction surgery
Both revelations that have taken me by surprise in the last week.
Month Two began on a positive note with clearance to drive again, after nearly 9 weeks as an impatient passenger. It was such a relief to gain back a little independence after so long! I progressed during the month to being able to first walk upstairs normally and, later in the month, to move downstairs normally as well. I can now walk up and downstairs without shuffling – hooray!
During week 6 I experienced some issues with my kneecap – it just didn’t feel right. Turns out the patella wasn’t tracking properly due to muscle weakening and wastage around the knee. Continuing with my strengthening exercises and using a foam roller twice a day has sorted this out and I now experience no discomfort in that area.
The evil foam roller – it works but it’s still evil
The knee is still stiff after extended periods of sitting and aches whenever it rains (sad but true!) but otherwise it’s the best it’s been since I first injured it. I can nearly completely bend it and fully flex it unaided and I expect that I will have full, unaided movement very soon.
I saw the surgeon yesterday for my 8 week post op checkup and he was really happy with my progress. He remarked on the fact I didn’t limp into his room and was pleased that I had regained so much movement in my knee. He performed an exercise to determine the strength of the graft and was happy that it was still firmly in place. After being deemed a model patient I was instructed to come back in three months for my final checkup.
My steady progress is all due to my physio and my rehab plan. It’s all down to committing to attending physio each week (I attend 2 x 2 hour sessions on a weekly basis) and also being diligent with doing exercises at home in between appointments. I don’t always do everything I’m supposed to do (life has a habit of getting in the way) but I do try to do something everyday as it does make a difference to how my knee feels.
The best part of physio – being iced at the end of a 2 hour session!
ACL post surgery rehabilitation exercises
Glutes bridges (bum lifts) My physio gets me to do 7 sets of 60 bum lifts each session. That’s 420 at a time, 2 to 3 times a week. Apparently I will have an awesome butt by the end of my rehab. That’s the only thing that gets me through 420 of them. The idea behind this exercise is to strengthen your glutes to better support the muscles of your knee – and it does work. I’ll eventually show you some butt before and after photos once my butt transformation is complete but, in the meantime, here’s a video to show you what they are all about:
Calf raises. At the moment I do 10 sets of 30 calf raises each session. That’s 300 at a time, 2 to 3 times a week. At first they burned. Hard. And at the end of 300 of them now I still feel the burn at the end of the session. But I’m getting stronger and my calves are getting better too. I tend to hold onto the back of a chair to do them and I’ve been instructed to not let my heel completely come down to the ground in between reps.
Double glutes bridge with chair. My current rate of these is 5 sets of 30 = 150 each session. These are tough, especially when you are already fatigued by the bum lifts beforehand. But they are another great exercise for increasing strength in the glutes which will eventually help protect my reconstructed knee.
Single leg stands while catching a tennis ball. At the moment I complete 10 sets of 20 catches while balancing on my injured leg. This activity is an attempt to find balance again on the right side of my body and re-establish my proprioception skills. This really hurts after a while, especially when your hip flexor comes into play. In recent sessions this exercise has been made harder as I also need to bend my injured leg which changes my centre of gravity slightly and makes me work harder to find my balance. This video isn’t exactly what I do (I throw a ball up with my right hand and catch it 20 times while balancing) but it gives an indication of the exercise:
Wobble board. This is another balance activity where I’m required to move side to side 100 times, move forward and back 100 times and then do 100 full rotations. I need to do them slow and not hit the board hard on the floor in any direction. This activity is designed to re-train the proprioceptors in my knee so I can confidently move around and eventually return to sport.
Foam Roller. This is a thing of evil but it immediately makes my knee feel so much better. I now do 5 mins on the foam roller, morning and night. The idea is the roller activates the ITB muscles in the thigh to keep the patella (knee cap) tracking in the injured knee. There can be tracking issues after injury as the muscles surrounding the knee are not strong enough to hold the patella tight. Using the roller definitely makes a difference to me – that’s the thought I hold onto for those 5 mins of agony twice every day…
Knee movement exercises. In addition to all the exercises above I also undertake a movement exercise every day for 15 minutes which is designed to improve range of movement in my knee. Applying a heated bag to the knee helps movement become more fluid and easy while alternating for 15 seconds between bending and flexing the knee does improve overall movement for the rest of the day.
I’ve also been cleared to start some gentle cycling on the exercise bike and some straight kick swimming too. I just need to work on building up my stamina and cardio fitness all over again now…they are all shot after nearly 3 months out from exercise.
But the biggest highlight of the month came when my physio asked me to buy some new shoes to give better support to my knees. In a few weeks I’ll re-start slow and steady straight line jogging which means I’m edging ever closer to getting back out there and exercising fully again.
Although I know it’s gonna hurt and I’m sadly out of shape, I can’t wait to go for a decent walk again – it’s going to be awesome!!!!
Have you survived intensive rehab after surgery – how did you get through it and how did you recover?
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.