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Treating an ACL injury

Te whakarauora i te wharanga nape rīpeka o mua

Self-care for an ACL injury

There are several things you can do in the first few days after an ACL injury to help your knee heal.

First, reduce any swelling and pain by using RICE treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

Then make sure you protect your knee from any more damage by avoiding any jumping or twisting.

By the fourth day after your injury, you should start exercises to gradually increase how much you can move your knee and get your thigh muscles working. Work through the following exercises in order. Once you can do an exercise comfortably and you feel ready, you can move on to the next exercise. If you aren't sure, speak to your doctor or physiotherapist.

If any of these steps are painful, stop the exercises and see a physiotherapist or doctor.

Getting help for an ACL injury

A physiotherapist will oversee any conservative (non-surgical) treatment you have. You can go straight to a physiotherapist without having to see a doctor first. You can search for a physiotherapist near you on Find a Physio.

ACC almost always covers ACL injuries, but you may have to pay a surcharge. Ask your physiotherapist how much you'll have to pay.

After assessing your knee, your physiotherapist will recommend a series of exercises to help you heal. This might include some time in a gym, but exercises you do at home can also work well.

The exercises the physiotherapist gives you will help to:

They will include exercises specifically targeted to your sport or work. The aim is to get you moving normally again without worrying about your knee giving way.

It can take up to nine months to get you back to sport. Your physiotherapist will test your knee and assess your progress to find out when you're ready.

If this rehabilitation programme doesn't work and your knee continues to give way, you may need surgery.

On the next page: Surgery for an ACL injury

Written by a Christchurch physiotherapist. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.


Page reference: 219093

Review key: HIHIL-240273