Physical Therapy After Knee Surgery for ACL Reconstruction

Posted on Dec 14, 2017

Posted in: PT Tips

Since 2001, the licensed physical therapists at Peak Performance have been committed to providing the best physical therapy care for patients after knee surgery for ACL reconstruction. Their approach focuses on getting to work on range of motion early. Kari Sturtevant, owner, says “There is only a window of time to work on motion, but all the time in the world to work on strength”.

Just what exactly is the ‘window of time’ to get started on physical therapy after knee surgery? Ideally, it needs to happen within the first week after ACL surgery. Peak Performance physical therapists work closely with a patient’s orthopedic team, typically following an accelerated therapy protocol developed by the Cincinnati Sportsmedicine and Orthopedic Center. Patients are in the office within 48 hours of their surgery!

Why do patients require physical therapy after knee surgery for ACL reconstruction?

There are several reasons why patients need physical therapy after ACL surgery. The licensed physical therapists at Peak Performance focus on helping patients retrain their body mechanics, which focuses on improving posture and coordination. Often, improper body mechanics can be a contributing factor that led to the injury in the first place.

A second reason is the likelihood of a successful transition to normal activities increases when a patient works with a therapist to successfully complete a rehabilitation protocol. The approach adopted by all Peak Performance physical therapists includes range of motion and weight bearing exercises, mobilization, modalities like Electrical Muscle Stimulation, stretching, balance training, strengthening, return to sports activities and conditioning.

The Stages of ACL Rehabilitation

The Cincinnati Sports Medicine Program includes five phases in the first twelve weeks of rehabilitation. Nikki Strick, licensed physical therapist at Peak Performance, describes the approach in three main stages for patients, as to not overwhelm them with treatment protocol. Nikki, like all therapists at Peak Performance, sees each patient from start to finish. This continuity of care is distinctive, as other practices may have aides or other therapists assigned to a patient.

FIRST STAGE: Quadriceps Activation/Range of Motion

The first stage for therapy after knee surgery is for the patient to regain range of motion and get the quadriceps muscles to function. Patients work on walking, knee flexion range of motion, isometrics and regaining full knee extension. This first phase can be tricky for some patients, especially if they have fibrous or scar tissue issues.

SECOND STAGE: Progress to Strength and Full Range of Motion

As patients progress through the accelerated ACL treatment protocol, range of motion continues to improve with a goal of at least 135 degrees of flexion. The continued growth in their relationship with their physical therapist becomes paramount. Regular weekly visits, as well as consistent follow-through for completing exercises at home increases the likelihood of the ability to be cleared for normal activities. Peak Performance offers use of their training facility for all patients free of charge during and after their treatment programs. Often, patients continue their exercises at Peak Performance because the environment is comfortable for them.

THIRD STAGE: Return to Sport for Athletes

Finally, Peak Performance works with athletes to return to their sport. This part of the protocol is unique to Peak Performance, as the team of therapists are the only ones to provide SportsMetrics in Northeast Wisconsin. The return to sport exercises and plyometrics for athletes decreases the possibility of re-injury.

Without a third stage for athletes, they may return to playing their sport too early. Nikki, who has successfully completed her own rehabilitation for both of her knees, can relate to the athlete’s desire to get back to playing as soon as possible. “I work with each athlete on awareness of their body mechanics. Together, we work on new patterns. It’s very individualized and I love helping them return back to their sport with confidence.”

To learn more about physical therapy after knee surgery for ACL reconstruction from Peak Performance, we invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation with a licensed physical therapist on our team. Contact us using our form or give us a call at 920-738-0671.