If you have suffered an injury to your knee, you may benefit from physical therapy to help improve your knee range of motion (ROM) and strength. Your physical therapist may perform special tests to determine if you have damaged specific structures or ligaments in your knee.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is an important structure in your knee. It helps to prevent forward slippage of your shin bone under your thigh bone. Injury to your ACL causes a feeling of instability in your knee and may prevent you from participating in high level activities and athletics.
If you have knee pain after suffering an injury, your doctor or physical therapist can help determine if your ACL (or another structure) is potentially damaged. He or she can then ensure that you receive the proper treatment for your knee.
To initially assess the integrity of your ACL, you physical therapist or doctor may perform the anterior drawer test for your knee. This is done by having your therapist gently pull your shin bone forward while stabilizing your foot. If your shin glides forward more on your injured knee as compared to your non-injured knee, there is a possibility that you have torn your ACL.
If you suspect you have torn your ACL, it is recommended you visit your doctor to confirm your suspicions. He or she will likely order and MRI to better assess the internal structures of your knee.
If you have torn your ACL, your doctor may refer you to physical therapy to help you regain normal mobility. Your first appointment in physical therapy is called an initial evaluation, and during this session your PT will collect information about your condition to help devise a treatment plan.
Once your physical therapist completes an initial evaluation and assessment, he or she will work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan. Be sure to work closely with your PT to develop goals, and ask any questions if you do not understand your diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment.
Components of a physical therapy treatment plan after an ACL tear include, but are not limited to:
One of the most important components of your ACL rehab program is to learn how to prevent future problems with your knee. Be sure to work with your physical therapist to determine the variables that may have contributed to your injury, and devise an exercise strategy to prevent another ACL injury.
If you have torn your ACL and have attended physical therapy to restore normal mobility and function but still continue with the feeling of instability, you may need to consider surgery to repair your ACL. You should speak with your doctor to help you decide on the best course of treatment for your ACL and to determine if a surgical repair is a good option for you. In general, if you wish to return to high intensity sports that require running, stopping and starting, or jumping, you may wish to consider an ACL repair.
If you do have knee surgery, you may benefit from physical therapy after an ACL repair to help you return to normal activity and function. Your PT can help guide you through you post-operative ACL protocol to get you up and moving quickly and safely.
If you have injured your knee and have sprained your ACL, you may benefit from physical therapy to help you improve your ROM and strength, decrease knee pain and swelling, and help you return to your previous level of function.