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YOUR ACL SPRAIN GUIDE

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Your care guide's focus is on practical strategies to reduce pain, improve function, and promote joint recovery. 

 

OVERVIEW

This care guide and related information is educational in nature. Always consult with a medical professional prior to initiating new exercises or trying a new product, drug, or supplement.

 

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CARE STRATEGY

If you feel this is potentially an ACL injury, we highly recommend consulting with a clinician. Waiting too long to speak with a professional can limit your ability to recover fully, so err on the side of caution. If the ligament(s) are injured beyond a certain extent, full recovery may require surgery.

PROTECT
Your 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, avoid activities that exacerbate your pain.

BUT KEEP MOVING
That doesn't mean to stop moving altogether. Short, frequent walks on flat ground should be performed as tolerated. Research has clearly shown that movement is critical to joint health and recovery. The key is listening to your body. The movement must be at the right intensity to promote healing, but without exacerbating the issue.

PRACTICAL TIPS
Remain mobile. Go for short, frequent walks as tolerated on flat ground. Start a conservative ACL sprain exercise program (yours is at the bottom of this page.) If something causes pain, back off.

Also avoid long periods of sitting, as this will tighten up the knee and make movement more painful.

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.

PHASE 1 | DAY 1-3

Goal: 25% Reduction in Pain

This phase is to jump start your recovery. Perform your exercise program 4 times per day. Twice in the morning, and twice in the afternoon. We want a noticeable improvement in pain levels by day 3. We know this can be difficult with busy schedules, but it's for a short time and necessary to promote a successful recovery.

DAY 3: If the pain worsens consider consulting a clinician. Otherwise, proceed to Phase 2.

PHASE 2 | DAY 4-7

Goal: 50% Reduction in Pain

This phase is about maintaining the momentum from Phase 1. Reduce your exercise frequency to 3 times per day. Keep at least one session in the morning or afternoon. The exercises should start to feel easier and automatic.

DAY 7: You should see significant relief by the end of this phase. If not, consider consulting a clinician or trying an option from the joint tools section (meds, e-stim etc.)

PHASE 3 | DAY 7-14

Goal: 75% Reduction in Pain

This phase is about consistency and slowly resuming normal activities. Perform your exercises 2 times per day. Perform one session of either walking or athletic activities (running, cycling etc) at 25-50% normal intensity. Let pain be your guide, if it hurts, back off!

DAY 14: You should feel markedly better and confidently on the path to recovery.

PHASE 4 | DAY 14-30

Goal: 95% Reduction in Pain

This phase is about transitioning to a maintenance program and finalizing your recovery. Reduce your exercise frequency to once per day. Keep building on your functional and athletic activity levels. You can begin to push your knee a little harder each day, but once again, let your body be your guide. Congratulations on your self-driven recovery!

If you require additional guidance or help returning to full athletic levels, we recommend going directly to a physical therapist. Access options have exploded in recent years with therapists who come to your home or virtually.

 

If you have thoughts on how we can improve Physiobot, please let us know!

PAIN TOOLS

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Let's be clear - therapeutic exercise and activity modification are your best bet. But everyone asks us about these joint tools and "if they work." To be honest, it's a tricky question. Results vary significantly person-to-person, and supporting evidence varies product-to-product. 

 

So we did a full clinical review on each product-class, and prioritized based on current strength of evidence. We were surprised by some of the findings.

 

MASSAGE GUNS

Clinical Evidence: Good(+)

Percussive massage devices use rapid, repetitive strokes to target deep muscle tissue. Evidence shows support for both pain reduction and improved flexibility.

Massage Gun Evidence & Review

ICE VS HEAT

Clinical Evidence: Strong

Evidence suggests ice can be useful immediately after a sprain occurs to reduce pain and swelling. Heat tends to be best for muscle soreness.

MEDICATIONS

Clinical Evidence: Strong

Our literature review indicates a combination of NSAID topical cream and oral acetaminophen is a reasonable first strategy to consider. 

Knee Meds Evidence & Review

KNEE BRACES

Clinical Evidence: Fair(+)

The right knee brace can add support, reduce pain, and help you remain active. Take care to match the type of brace with your specific knee issue.

Knee Brace Evidence & Review

E-STIM UNITS

Clinical Evidence: Fair

E-stim units are a drug-free, pain relief option. New models allow for easy home use. AMP technology may reduce the risk of developing tolerance.

E-Stim Evidence & Review

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NEXT LEVEL CARE

Joint Care. On Your Terms.

Care Access
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Knee care is often severely delayed due to the barriers of time, travel, and cost. These delays can have life-long consequences on recovery - also known as a lot of unnecessary pain. To overcome this challenge, new options have become available that bring evidence-based care to you. No prescription required.

HANDS-ON CARE, BROUGHT TO YOU

Confirm your condition, review exercises, and get hands-on care. An expert Physical Therapist will evaluate your back in person, at home or work. Insurance accepted. Same cost as in a clinic, no prescription required. We love this. Learn More

100% VIRTUAL KNEE PAIN CARE

The next generation of joint care is here. Built for ease of use and accessibility. Access to a licensed physical therapist on your phone or laptop. Motion-sensing technology. Covered through insurance or employer benefits. We review your options. Learn More

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YOUR EXERCISES

Exercises

Selected based on your condition match and care profile

Stretches

Hold for 45-60 seconds

1-2 repetitions per session

Perform on each side

Strengthening

10-15 repetitions per set

1 set per session

Perform on each side

 - Consult with a physician prior to trying new exercises -

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Range of Motion

This exercise methodically and safely addresses tightness and range-of-motion restrictions.

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Short Arc Quads

This exercise methodically and safely addresses tightness and range-of-motion restrictions.

Want to save your guide for later?  Tap below. 

Hamstrings Firing

This exercise is a simple way to help you bend your knee better when walking.

Quad Strength

The quadriceps are key for knee stability with walking and running. When weak, pain and instability occur.

Gluteus Medius

This muscle is located on the outer hip. Research shows strengthening the gluteus medius is key to reducing knee pain.

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