Torn knee ligaments are some of the most common knee injuries, often the result of playing sports. In fact, up to 200,000 people in the United States experience ACL tears each year. It’s typical to hear a “popping” sound when your anterior cruciate ligament tears, followed by swelling and knee pain.
An ACL injury severely limits knee movement. If your injury isn’t properly rehabilitated, you may experience long-term issues with chronic pain and knee mobility. With the help of the pain management specialists at LA Orthopaedic Specialists, you can minimize complications and recover as quickly and safely as possible.
Knee ligament injuries
You have four ligaments in your knee, and these tough elastic bands connect bones to each other to provide stability to the joint. The anterior cruciate ligament runs through the middle of your knee and controls movement of your shin bone. Your ACL prevents your shin from sliding forward past your thigh bone.
Although ligaments are tough, they’re vulnerable to injury. In fact, the ACL is the most injured ligament. This most commonly happens when the ligament stretches or twists beyond its capacity. ACL tears are common in sports such as skiing, basketball, and football.
When your feet remain planted and your knee twists or turns the other way, the ligament may stretch and tear. Sudden impact to the knee can also cause an ACL injury. If you’ve torn your ACL, you may wonder: “Now what?” Fortunately, surgery isn’t always necessary.
RICE for an acute ACL tear
In the immediate aftermath of a torn ACL, the RICE method is the best way to reduce pain and swelling until you can see a specialist for evaluation.
- Rest your leg; this means avoiding putting weight on it
- Ice the affected knee for no longer than 20 minutes at a time, about 3 to 4 times a day
- Compress the area with a compression wrap or elastic bandage
- Elevate your leg by positioning it higher than your heart level
Physical therapy for a torn ACL
Many people who tear their ACL assume that they need surgery to reconstruct the ligament. It may surprise you to know that with the right physical therapy regimen, many patients with ACL tears can fully recover without the need to go under the knife.
The sooner you can safely begin physical therapy, the better. When you visit LA Orthopaedic Specialists, our highly skilled pain management physicians perform a thorough evaluation of your ACL injury and create an individualized treatment plan to improve your knee function.
Physical therapy is integral to recovering knee function and gaining pain relief. It’s part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program that may include pain-relieving medication, steroid injections to reduce inflammation, and hyaluronic acid injections to help lubricate the joint.
Treatment depends on various factors, including age, overall health, medical history, and the extent of your ACL injury.
Avoiding ACL reconstruction surgery
Treating an ACL tear with physical therapy is ideal for many patients. Whether you’ve sustained a full or partial tear, an intensive rehabilitation program can often help you avoid surgery.
In fact, a Swedish study found that when patients undergo a structured rehabilitation program with surgery as a future option, in many cases, physical therapy helped them recover enough to avoid surgery.
If you’ve experienced a torn ACL, a comprehensive rehabilitation program can get you back on your feet and back to the activities you enjoy. Make an appointment with our team, in Los Angeles, California to get started. Call the location nearest you to schedule a consultation.