After an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, you lose leg strength and motion and stability of the knee. It is important that you regain your leg strength and motion as soon as possible, whether you choose to have surgery for your ACL injury or not. Exercises to regain muscle strength and knee motion should begin before you start treatment, whether treatment is a rehabilitation (rehab) program only or surgery plus rehab.
After an ACL injury, your knee will not be stable, may be painful, and may have a limited range of motion. You may eventually develop osteoarthritis in the knee.
If you do exercises to strengthen your thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) and regain knee motion soon after an ACL injury, you will be better prepared for a rehab program or for surgery with a rehab program.
You should start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of the exercises. Do not push yourself to the point that you feel pain. Talk to your doctor about how to best progress through the exercises.
The exercises outlined here are common exercises used after an ACL injury. But your doctor may create a specific set of exercises for you. Check with your doctor before you do any exercises.
How do I do ACL exercises?
Quad sets, straight-leg raises, and heel slides are common exercises used after an ACL injury. As symptoms decrease and you are able to bear weight, side-lying leg lifts, glute sets, bridges, mini-squats, heel raises, and prone hamstring curls might be added. But your doctor may want you to tailor exercises to your specific injury. Check with your doctor before you do any exercises.
You should start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of the exercises. Do not push yourself to the point that you feel pain. Talk to your doctor about how to best progress.
Medical Review:William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Freddie H. Fu, MD - Orthopedics