Are you an athlete who has suffered an ACL injury and is now contemplating how long after ACL surgery can you run again? The good news is that you can begin running after ACL surgery but only after your body has fully healed. You don’t want to jump back onto the track in a hurry and risk sustaining another injury.
In this article, we will discuss what you need to do to recover fully, what running after ACL surgery entails, and the precautions you need to take to avoid re-injuring yourself.
Understanding ACL Surgery
The anterior cruciate ligament connects your thighbone to your shinbone, and it stabilizes your knee when you run, jump or pivot. When it gets torn, you lose your knee’s stability and mobility, leading to lessened function and swelling. This injury is prevalent among athletes who engage in high-risk sports such as soccer, basketball, and football.
ACL surgery, which is also known as arthroscopic knee surgery or an ACL reconstruction, is a surgical procedure that entails replacing the torn ligament with a tendon graft. This graft could be a tendon from your hamstring, patella or an allograft, which is a tendon from a cadaver. After surgery, patients are put on a rehabilitation program to help them regain strength and mobility in their injured knee.
What You Need to Do to Recover Fully
Stay Off Your Feet
Immediately after surgery, you’ll need to rest and avoid putting weight on your knee as this puts unnecessary stress on the knee and increases inflammation. You will require crutches to help you move around for the first couple of weeks after surgery.
Ice n’ Rest
Ice your knee and keep it elevated for about 20 minutes at a time, use cold compresses, and avoid anything that could cause swelling to the knee. Apply ice to the knee several times a day during the first couple of days post-surgery.
Physical therapy is a vital part of the recovery process after ACL surgery. It’s important to start it as soon as a couple of days after surgery because the more mobility you get back in your knee, the quicker you heal. Your physical therapist will guide you on exercises to do and teach you how to walk in a way that puts the least pressure on your knee.
What Running After ACL Surgery Entails
Timeline to Start Running
When wondering how long after ACL surgery can you run, it’s vital to understand that you need to be patient. Your doctor or physical therapist should advise you when to start running, usually not until six months after surgery. This timeline could change if you have experienced any complications during recovery.
Start Slow and Steady
It’s important to start with light activities such as swimming or cycling to allow your knee some time to adjust. Then, after a month, you could begin jogging for five minutes and gradually increase your jogging time every week. For instance, instead of running at a fast pace, you could opt for slower-paced activities such as a light jog, brisk walk, or running laps.
Choose the Right Surface to Run On
Running on a surface that’s too hard or too soft can put undue pressure on your knees, which can lead to swelling and inflammation. Opt for a track or a treadmill which has better shock absorption. Additionally, it’s essential to wear proper running shoes that support your feet and ankles comfortably.
Precautions to Avoid Re-injuring Yourself
Listen to Your Body
It’s crucial to listen to your body and stay within your limits. If you feel any pain or discomfort when you’re running, stop immediately, and consult your doctor or physical therapist. Likewise, if your knee swells up and hurts after a run, it’s a sign that you may have overdone it, and you need to take a break.
Do Regular Stretching and Warm-ups
Avoid starting a run with cold muscles. It’s advisable to do a warm-up before running to help prepare your muscles for the activity. Take at least five minutes to do stretching exercises that focus on the knees, hips, and ankles.
Work on Your Form
Proper running form helps prevent putting too much strain on your knees as well as your lower back. It’s advisable to work with a professional coach or physical therapist to assess your running posture and work on correcting any issues.
The Bottom Line
It’s essential to give yourself some time to recover fully before you start running after ACL surgery. It could take anywhere from six months to a year, depending on your body’s healing process. When you finally start, begin with easy activities and increase them gradually as your knee’s strength and mobility improve. Additionally, always listen to your body and work within your limits.
- How long after ACL surgery can I run?
- What kind of running should I do?
- What precautions should I take when running after ACL surgery?
It’s advisable to wait at least six months before running after ACL surgery, although this timeline could change depending on your rate of recovery. Your doctor or physical therapist can advise you when it’s safe to run.
Start by doing gentle activities such as jogging, brisk walking, or swimming for a few minutes, and gradually increase your pace or duration. Opt for a treadmill or a track with better shock absorption since these are more knee-friendly.
Always listen to your body, work on your form, do regular stretches, warm-ups, and choose the right surface to run on. Additionally, start slow and work your way up and avoid over-exerting yourself.