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How long after an ACL surgery, will I be able to walk again?

A common question people have about their ACL reconstruction surgery is how long after the surgery they will be able to walk again. In this article, you will find out the answer to this question.


ACL reconstruction surgery is a procedure to fix a torn knee ligament called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The torn ACL is replaced with a new ligament, usually taken from another part of the body or a donor. This surgery helps stabilise the knee and allows people to return to activities like sports that involve a lot of movement. 


Timeline for walking after ACL surgery:

After an ACL surgery, your knee will likely be swollen and sore, making it hard to put pressure on it. Doctors usually say you can start walking on the first day after surgery, using crutches to help. Some people need crutches for a few days, while others might need them for a few weeks.


Important Points to Remember While Walking After ACL Surgery:

  • Try to walk normally, putting as much weight as you can on your operated leg. 
  • When you walk, land on your heel and keep your knees straight. 
  • You can only walk for a few minutes each day.   

For the first 2 weeks, standing and walking a bit helps with swelling and helps you regain your strength and flexibility. You'll start walking without help in about 2–4 weeks, but only for a short time. By 10–12 weeks, you might be brisk walking, lightly jogging, or doing special exercises. Overall, it can take 6–12 months, or even longer with therapy, to fully recover from ACL surgery. 


However, walking after an ACL surgery is subjective and will depend on several factors. Your doctor and physical therapist will make a plan for you to recover, and when and how to start walking is a crucial part of that plan. 


Factors that can impact how soon you walk after ACL surgery:

  • Pre-surgery knee condition: If your knee was swollen and weak before surgery, it might take longer to walk afterwards.
  • Immediate treatment: Using RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) right after the injury can help reduce pain and swelling, which can affect how soon you can walk after surgery.
  • Pre-surgery exercises: Your physiotherapist will give you exercises to strengthen your leg muscles and improve knee movement before surgery, which can help with walking afterwards. These exercises help optimise the body's readiness for the surgical procedure and promote better outcomes during the recovery process.
  • Surgeon's skill: How experienced your surgeon is and the techniques they use can impact your ability to walk after surgery.
  • ACL graft choice: The type of graft used for the ACL reconstruction can affect pain and swelling after surgery. Your surgeon's preference and your individual circumstances play a role in choosing the graft type.
  • Recovery efforts: How committed you are to your recovery, especially in the first two weeks after surgery, greatly influences how quickly you can start walking and putting weight on your operated leg.

It's normal to want to walk again quickly after ACL surgery, but it's important to listen to your surgeon and therapist. If you try to walk too soon or push too hard, it could cause problems. Take it slow, follow the plan they give you, and be patient. That's the best way to recover well.


Your key takeaway is here:

Recovering from ACL surgery and regaining the ability to walk comfortably is a process that varies for each individual. While the timeline for walking after ACL surgery typically ranges from a few days to several months, it's essential to follow your doctor's and physical therapist's guidance closely. Factors such as pre-surgery knee condition, immediate treatment, pre-surgery exercises, surgeon's skill, ACL graft choice, and recovery efforts all play a role in determining how soon you can walk again. Remember, patience and adherence to the recovery plan are key to achieving optimal outcomes and returning to your normal activities with confidence.