ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. This is one of the critical ligaments responsible for stabilizing your knee joint. When you experience an injury to your ACL, this is a tear or sprain of that ligament, a strong band of tissue connecting the femur (thigh bone) to your tibia (shinbone). ACL injuries typically happen while engaging in sports that require sudden stopping, directional changes, jumping and landing. Common sports where ACL injuries are common include basketball, soccer, football and skiing.
When an ACL injury is sustained, the person may hear a popping sound or feel a popping within the knee. As a result, the knee can swell up, feel unstable and become painful when bearing weight. Treatment will depend on the extent of the injury, but usually includes rest and rehabilitation exercises designed to improve strength and stability. In rare cases, surgery is necessary to replace the torn ligament. But thankfully, there are less invasive treatments available that can alleviate the pain associated with an ACL injury.
Quickly caring for the injury right after it happens is key to reducing pain and swelling. Self-care can begin at home if you follow the R.I.C.E. model:
- Rest. This will help with the healing while limiting weight-bearing on the knee.
- Ice. Put ice on your knee every two hours for 20 minutes each.
- Compression. Wrap a compression wrap or elastic bandage around the knee to keep it stabilized.
- Elevation. Lie down and prop your knee up on pillows.
You will likely have to go through many weeks of rehabilitative therapy, directed by a physical therapist who will guide you through the proper exercises. These exercises may begin in a treatment center, followed by performing those exercises on your own at home. You’ll also likely wear a knee brace to stabilize the joint while using crutches to keep weight off the knee.
Rehab will reduce pain and swelling, strengthen your muscles, and restore full range of motion to the knee.
Medication and Injections
Anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken to reduce swelling and pain. These may include over-the-counter medications or prescription medications. If you are experiencing intense pain, you may be able to get a steroid injection from your doctor.
If the damage is severe enough, surgery may be recommended, especially for athletes who want to return to play or those whose knees keep buckling during normal everyday use. The surgeon will remove the damaged ligament and replace it with a tendon segment in a procedure called a graft. Surgery comes with long recovery times and can be very painful. The prescription of possibly addicting pain medications can also pose a long-term problem.
Regenerative Medicine Options
If you wish to go the non-surgical route, which many people prefer to do, you may be a good candidate for platelet rich plasma injections. This procedure relieves knee pain by injecting your own blood platelets into the area to promote the natural healing of damaged cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.
Contact Summit Spine and Joint Centers
Do you suffer from an ACL injury? Call us today for a consultation to talk about treatment options at 770-962-3642 and make an appointment to visit one our 22 pain centers including our featured location in July for Pain Management in Roswell, GA.