The goals of treatment for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury are to:
- Restore normal or almost normal stability in
- Restore the level of function you had before the knee
- Limit loss of function in the knee.
injury or more damage to other knee structures.
- Reduce pain.
- Prevent osteoarthritis.
You'll need to work with your doctor to decide whether you should have several months of
rehabilitation (rehab) or surgery with rehab. Not all ACL tears need
Treatment right after an injury
If you know you have
injured your ACL, the first treatment consists
- First aid to reduce swelling and pain.
This may include resting the knee,
applying ice, using gentle compression with an elastic
bandage, elevating the leg, and taking pain medicines, such as
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Using crutches and/or splints in the
first few days. If crutches or splints are used for too long,
the muscles will become weaker from too little activity. Then movement of the
knee will become stiff and restricted.
- Strength and motion
exercises to help prepare you for treatment.
- ACL Injury: Exercises to Do Before Treatment
For more information on first aid, see Home Treatment.
What type of other treatment you have depends on:
- How much of your ACL is torn (whether it is
a grade I, II, or III sprain).
- When the
injury occurred and how stable your knee is.
- Whether other parts of
the knee are injured. If they are, it will be
harder for the strong parts of your knee to compensate and protect the injured
- Whether you had other knee problems before, such as injuries
that caused long-term (chronic)
ACL deficiency, or
- How active you
- Your age and overall health.
willingness and ability to complete a long and rigorous rehab.
Treatment options include:
- ACL Injury: Should I Have Knee Surgery?
Recovery from an ACL injury varies for each person.
Your treatment should continue until your knee is stable and strong rather than for a
certain length of time.
Treatment in children and teens
Treatment of ACL injuries in children and teens involves special concerns, because children's bones are still growing. Talk to your doctor about treatment choices for your child.