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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.

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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.

 

YOUR STRATEGY

Clinical Evidence: Strong
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.

YOUR EXERCISES

Clinical Evidence: Strong

Begin a targeted ACL sprain exercise program. For best results, make sure you address both strength and flexibility. We have given you a head start with an exercise program at the bottom of this care guide. Perform your exercises at least two times a day when possible. You can cycle down as the pain diminishes. Our goal is developing a simple set of exercises you can maintain.

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. Learn More

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.

 

Still, our users want answers, 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

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 Braces 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

WHAT TO EXPECT

A conservative strategy of exercise and activity modification should lead to noticeable improvement within a few days. Other interventions, such as heat therapy, bracing, massage etc. can sometimes provide more immediate relief. This will be highly variable between individuals. Full return to activity and sport after an ACL sprain can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a year. This will largely depend on the severity of the injury and how quickly care is accessed. Once again, when in doubt, we recommend getting evaluated by a joint specialist.
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PROVEN CARE

(When You Just Need More)

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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

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 targets the end range of knee extension strength. This range often weakens with knee irritation.

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Hamstrings Firing

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

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