Additional general information on Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) sprains is available here.
If you feel this is potentially a cruciate ligament injury, we highly recommend consulting with a clinician. To find a doctor or PT who accepts your insurance, our Physiobot Care Access Specialist is now available. Telehealth options provided as well.
PROTECT THE LIGAMENT
Our main objective for ACL sprain recovery is simple - minimize strain on the ligaments. This allows inflammation to settle down and healing to begin.
With that in mind, minimize activities that exacerbate your pain. Basically, if it hurts - back off. That doesn't mean to stop moving altogether. Short, frequent walks on flat ground should be performed as tolerated.
ICE OR HEAT
If you notice swelling, go with ice instead of hot packs. This is particularly important in the first 48-72 hours after the injury occurred. This will help soothe the inflammation, reduce stiffness and promote healing. You can learn more about correct icing techniques on our Icing Instructional Guide.
Also begin a targeted ACL exercise program. Make sure you address strength, range-of-motion and flexibility. Luckily you don't have to figure out which exercises to perform, our PT's have done it for you! Due to your limited time, we have prioritized the top 4 exercises. See below.
Try to do your exercises a few times a day. You can cycle down as the pain diminishes.
The evidence on knee braces is mixed and should not replace exercises. That said, many individuals report significant pain relief with a good brace, particularly immediately after an ACL sprain. For additional guidance, please view our Knee Brace Review page.
WHAT TO EXPECT
If it is a mild injury then you should see significant improvement within 1-3 days.
BACK IN ACTION
Once the pain diminishes, slowly ease back into your normal daily and athletic activities. Ideally this is done with a clinician to monitor and guide your return to sport rehab plan.
A WORD OF CAUTION
To be clear, if the ligament(s) are injured beyond a certain extent, full recovery may require surgery.
JOINT CARE + YOUR INSURANCE
Not improving fast enough? Time to talk to a joint pro. To find a clinician who accepts your insurance, you can launch our Physiobot Care Access Specialist. Telehealth options included.
To review your Physical Therapy options, check out our PT Resource Guide.
-- Check with your doctor or PT prior to initiating a new exercise program --
Selected based on your condition match and care profile
Hold for 45-60 seconds
1-2 repetitions per session
Perform on each side
10-15 repetitions per set
1 set per session
Perform on each side
Want to save for later? We are happy to email your exercises.
Range of Motion
Following a cruciate ligament injury the knee tends to swell, restricting the knee's range-of-motion. This exercise methodically and safely address this tightness and ROM restriction.
Short Arc Quads
This exercise targets the end range of knee extension strength. This range often weakens following a knee injury, leading to knee buckling and pain.
The quadriceps are key to activities such as getting out of chairs and navigating stairs without pain or difficulty. This exercise strengthens them without adding strain to the ACL.
This exercise is a conservative approach to both improving hamstrings contraction AND your knee's range-of-motion. Both are critical factors in ACL sprain recovery.