Recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery is a long, difficult process. You have to get your knee motion and leg strength back before starting sports activities. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I discuss one of the early challenges with rehab from an ACL surgery – getting your knee straight and your knee motion back to normal.

Donna asks:
Hello and good morning! I had ACL reconstruction and a repair on my meniscus in May, and I can’t straighten my knee. It’s constantly swollen. I just want to know will it eventually straighten ever with time and therapy, and am I going to walk like this for the rest of my life (limping with one leg bent)?

One of the toughest aspects of the first few weeks after ACL reconstruction surgery is getting full knee extension. Essentially orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists want you to get your knee fully straight quickly after surgery. Often we will put you in a hinged knee brace to keep your knee straight much of the day.

Also read:
Rehabilitation factors that might influence outcomes from ACL surgery

How can you get your knee straight after ACL surgery?

The challenge of getting your knee straight after ACL surgery

In my experience, if patients work hard on pushing their knee flat to the table several times a day and do the knee extension exercises recommended by the physical therapist, they can get full extension back within a few weeks. I’ve always found that if people can get their knee straight within four weeks from surgery, they can keep it and walk normally. If they struggle to get it by four weeks, it can be hard to get it on their own. Those patients are a challenge, and sometimes surgery to clean out scar tissue can be necessary.

Also read:
ACL injuries: Rehab and return to sports

In this video, I explain some of the obstacles to getting your knee straight and what we can do to try to help patients improve knee range of motion.

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