ACL rehab exercises

ACL Rehab Exercise

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a major ligament in the knee. It is one of the most commonly injured ligaments in the body. ACL injuries can lead to knee instability and difficulty walking or running and can take months to heal. Rehabilitation exercises can create a base of support for the knee, speeding recovery and reducing the chance of future injury.

    Quad Strength

  1. The quadriceps are a large muscle group just above the knee. Strong quads will promote stability in the knee joint, which can speed recovery from an ACL injury. Standard quad exercises like leg presses and squats tend to be strenuous on the knee joint. When you begin your rehab, start with a less strenuous exercisethat doesn't require you to bend at the knee, such as sitting quad sets. To do a quad set, sit on the floor with your injured leg straight out and your healthy leg bent. Slowly use the strength of the quads to flatten the injured knee joint against the floor. With the quad muscles tensed, hold for 10 seconds, then release the pressure. Repeat the exercise, doing three sets of eight to 12 repetitions during your rehab routine.
  2. Heel Raises

  3. Heel raises are a common exercise for strengthening the calf muscle, or gastrocnemius, that runs along the back of the lower leg. Strengthening the calves can improve the body's ability to absorb impact while walking and running and can be done without bending the knee. To do heel raises, stand next to a wall or sturdy object and place a hand on it for support. Next, use the strength of the calf to thrust the heels up, so that you are supported on the balls of your feet. Slowly allow the heel to drop to the floor and repeat. Calf muscles can be very powerful; as you heal, you may wish to add some weight to the exercise by holding dumbbells. Doing calf raises on the edge of a stair will give you a greater range of motion on the downward part of the exercise.
  4. Leg Curls

  5. Another important muscle to strengthen is the hamstring, which runs along the back of the upper leg opposite the quads. This can be done with leg curls. They are normally done on special machines, but you should start your rehab with weightless leg curls. Lay down on your stomach with your legs fully extended. Bend the injured knee, raising the lower leg slowly toward the buttocks. If you experience anything beyond mild discomfort, keep your knee slightly bent and raise the leg as far as you can without bending the knee further, hold it for several seconds, and then let the hamstring come back to rest. Avoid any activity that causes pain--it might slow recovery and cause further damage.

Exercises you can do as tolerated, include the following.

  • Heel slide: Sit on the floor with legs outstretched. Slowly bend the knee of you injured leg while sliding your heel/foot across the floor toward you. Slide back into the starting position and repeat 10 times.
  • Isometric Contraction of the Quadriceps: Sit on the floor with your injured leg straight and your other leg bent. Contract the quadricep of the injured knee without moving the leg. (Press down against the floor). Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Prone knee flexion: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Bend your knee and bring your heel toward your buttocks. Hold 5 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

    Add the following exercises once knee swelling decreases and you can stand evenly on both legs without favoring the injured knee.

  • Passive knee extension: Sit in a chair and place your heel on another chair of equal height. Relax your leg and allow your knee to straighten. Rest in this position 1-2 minutes several times a day to stretch out the hamstrings.
  • Heel raise: While standing, place your hand on a chair/counter for balance. Raise up onto your toes and hold it for 5 seconds. Slowly lower your heel to the floor and repeat 10 times.
  • Half squat: Stand holding a sturdy table with both hands. With feet shoulder’s width apart, slowly bend your knees and squat, lowering your hips into a half squat. Hold 10 seconds and then slowly return to a standing postion. Repeat 10 times.
  • Knee extension: Loop one end of Theraband around a table leg and the other around the ankle of your injured leg and face the table. Bend your knee about 45 degrees agaist the resistance of the tubing and return.
  • One Legged Standing: As tolerated, try to stand unassisted on the injured leg for 10 seconds. Work up to this exercise over several weeks.

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