It all happened back in high school, my senior year during an ordinary sport class where we played floorball... She came aggressively after the ball and right when I was ready to show a bit of resistance, I ended up on the floor with my knee swollen like a balloon and feeling tremendous pain. Tears just broke out and I realized it’s bad. “Broken Anterior Cruciate Ligament and partly torn meniscus,” they said... Now, after 10 years of discomfort, I decided to operate it. I’m not a medic so in this article, I’ll just share my own experience on ACL recovery without surgery and why I decided to operate it at the end!
How It All Started
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is basically a letter X crossing our knee that’s meant for support during movement. Now, with my grown-ass mind, I'm starting to put the puzzle pieces together. For example, the injury was caused by someone bumping into me. My knee got twisted and muscles were late to react quickly.
I still remember how fastly my knee became a blood ball due to swelling, Jeez. It’s because the blood vessel that goes through the knee also breaks. You’ll feel pain and won’t be able to bend your knee when that happens.
Right after the rupture, I stayed at the hospital for a week. To this day I don't have the answer to why my surgent decided not to operate. Instead, he plastered my leg for 4 weeks and sent me home. That is why to avoid my case, I always recommend finding a traumatologist that's specialized in knee joint stabilization and cruciate ligament plastics. He will know what to do immediately.
Will Knee Injury Heal Itself?
You might not have surgery straight away. As soon as you tear your ACL, major bleeding starts to happen in your knee. If you want to avoid surgery then the blood must be pumped out with a needle. Then around 4 weeks, you must do special exercises that would absorb the leftover liquid.
In around 3-4 weeks you should get better if the bones are not damaged. For this purpose, a doctor tells you to take a magnetic resonance. As for the swelling bit, simple ice packs for injuries are really useful.
Tried Healing ACL Tear with Physiotherapy
The more I would work out, the stronger the muscles would become around my knee. This made me think that no surgery is needed. During that time I also often used special knee support meant for knee ligament instability.
Still, it would never go away entirely. Only later I learned why the surgery is actually a must, especially if you're at a young age.
Why ACL Surgery?
Apart from feeling instability and sudden loss of balance even with a ''trained knee'', there are other serious consequences.
Studies show that delaying ACL surgery means a higher risk of osteoarthritis later on in your life. They're also the inflammation of the joints, cartilage wear, bone deformations, etc so you might end up taking a more serious surgery afterwards.
If you decide not to operate, then be aware not only of instability that will follow you around but also know that you will feel the result later on in your life. In the best-case scenario, your knee gets tired quickly (this we can live with). But it also may trigger way serious actions that will make you regret this decision of recovery without surgery.
As always, there are doctors supporting and denying this so is it really true? Not sure, but could I risk it? No Sir... I have a way too much long-term thinking than a short "uncomfortable" 2-month recovery before returning to my everyday life.
Like I talk in my blog, I want to be that crazy old-granny who still jumps and dances in her late 70s. Besides, it's way much wiser to take ACL surgery when you're younger than later on in your life because your body can recover quicker.
Now Comes the ACL Surgery Part
The operation is endoscopic which means that the doctor won't "open your knee" so to speak. Instead, he will enter optical and surgical tools via two small holes and look at the screen.
During ACL surgery, a new cruciate ligament is made by taking less important tendons like the hamstring which apparently you can live without. The surgery lasts around an hour and you’ll probably get spinal anesthesia with an effect from 4-6 hours (here you won't feel your legs during surgery but you’re not asleep either).
Also, the crutches come in.. You’ll have to walk with them for about a month to avoid knee overload. I would recommend getting soft pads for the crutches. They're much more comfortable and you'll avoid blisters.
After the ACL Surgery: Best Exercises When Knee Injured
To prevent leg muscles from going atrophy and losing tone, you must start exercising right away. Besides, after the surgery, the knee is cut, weak and really tight so you must set your knee in motion.
The approaches can change, but my doctor recommended me getting it to a 90-degree angle within the first 10 days period. These exercises above are really good for that.
After your physiotherapy and time, you could look into the BodBot workout app. You can exercise by going light on your knee.
Can a Knee Injury Cause Depression?
Injury and mental health is a good question when it comes to recovering after surgery. You see, I myself was an active person who could easily run 10 miles a day (wrote extensively about walking here). And then all of a sudden within one day’s time I dropped into "the bed regime".
Here, I’m not talking only about everyday stuff like meeting friends and going to the store. I couldn’t even properly wash or go to a convenience room. It’s a lot of mental stuff coming at you while you’re in pain.
Personally, the first time I got injured, I was 16 and it was summer outside. All my friends went to parties and I was stuck in a hospital for a week. The second time around when I actually had the surgery, I was 27 with a different mindset and priorities.
The toughest was to stop working out knowing that I’ve trained for the past 4 years regularly (sometimes even 6 days a week). Fitness is like my therapy session so not being able to release all the negativity, injustice, pain and fear was rough.
What helped me was knowing that it’s temporary and it’s for the good. I would finally be able to forget about my weak area and focus on being happy.
I highly recommend you actually doing exercises and not be lazy (every move is bringing you closer to getting better). Also, think about your diet – don’t eat chocolate the whole day, it will reflect on your weight.
Try replacing carbs with protein and consume a lot of vitamin C to support your body with recovery and a strong immune system. Read more about practical metabolism tips here.
Lastly, document your progress. Not only it will help you track your progress but it will give you an emotional boost.
Will Your Knee Ever Heal After the ACL Surgery?
It will... you’ll finally start feeling normal again after 4 months. Look at the successful examples from professional athletes like Kristaps Porzingis and Davis Bertans - both NBA players with ACL rupture. Where are they now? Still playing basketball after a successful recovery!
Remember that the recovery should never stop. Professionals after successful rehabilitation still do exercises to support their existing trauma and prevent any future injuries. The majority use therapeutic kinesiology tapes like the KT Tape. It's great for remaining active while recovering from injuries.
This was my cruciate ligament personal experience. Hope it was useful! Good luck with your recovery and remember that you can do this! Check out my Instagram for more pics on recovery!