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ACL Exercises

Useful ACL Exercises When Recovering From Surgery

There are a number of recommended ACL exercises, several of which can be started immediately following surgery. The value of doing ACL exercises as part of the rehabilitation process cannot be overstressed. The reason for this becomes apparent when looking at the function of the ACL.

What The ACL Is - ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. The ACL is one of four ligaments connecting the bones of the knee joint. As far as leg strength and mobility are concerned, the ACL is the most important of these ligaments. The ACL keeps our lower leg from moving forward of the knee, or forward with respect to the thigh bone, and also limits the knee's rotational ability. The ACL keeps our knee joint stable, and also protects the joint from undue stress. It is also the ligament that is most susceptible to injury, which usually occurs in the form of a tear when it is overstretched.

A torn ACL will require surgery, and even if the tear is relatively minor, the ligament may have to be replaced. A torn ACL left untreated, will not only cause pain, but would severely affect one's ability to move around.

Retraining The Leg - Once surgery on the ACL has been completed, an exercise program needs to be started almost immediately. Naturally the exercise will be gentle ones at first. The important thing is to teach the muscles in the leg and knee to respond quickly, a capability that is lost when the ACL has been injured. The ACL exercises are in a sense an obedience training school for the leg, where the leg once again learns the principles of speed, power, balance, and agility. Here are several exercises a patient may need to learn as a part of the rehabilitation process. They would be initiated under supervision of a doctor or physical therapist. Early on, the damaged knee will be in a brace. Later on, the brace may be removed, but the exercise program needs to continue.

The Straight Leg Raise -  Lying on your back (the brace is locked), bend the unbraced knee until the foot is flat on the floor. By contracting your quadriceps muscle, slowly raise the braced leg about a foot off the floor and slowly lower it again, doing several repetitions.

Hip Abduction - Lying on your good side with your good leg bent and your damaged leg held straight out, raise the straight leg slowly, about a foot towards the ceiling, and slowly lower it again, doing several repetitions.

Hip Adduction - This time, lying on your injured side and keeping the injured leg straight, bend your good knee and place your foot in front of the lower leg. Then slowly raise the lower leg a few inches towards the ceiling, then slowly lower it again, do several repetitions.

Heel Slide - When you've reached the point where the brace on your surgically repaired knee can be unlocked and removed, lie on your back, bend the knee, and slowly slide your foot back and forth across the floor. Where the previous exercises are primarily to maintain leg strength, this one addresses flexibility and mobility.

There are other ACL exercises that may be recommended, but maintaining leg strength and restoring flexibility and mobility are the primary goals. In any event, start slowly and never hurry the exercises along. Rapid motion could in some instances undo what has been repaired. Some pain may be experienced in the early stages. The goal should never be to try to work through pain no matter how severe it is. This is not world-class competitive training, this is rehabilitation. It will take its own time, though the exercises will speed the process.


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