If you tear your ACL, surgery may be the best way to repair the tear in a timely manner. However, it is still only the first step in your healing journey. After your surgery, you will spend a couple of weeks recovering at home, and then you will begin physical therapy. What can you expect from your first post-surgery appointment with a physical therapist? Take a look.
Evaluation of strength and range of motion.
The first thing your physical therapist will typically do at this appointment is evaluate how strong your knee is and how large your range of motion is. They'll do this by having you press against certain things with your feet, asking you to bend your knee in certain ways, and seeing how far they can help you stretch your knee comfortably. This evaluation can be a bit uncomfortable, but your physical therapist should not push you to do anything that is overly painful at this stage.
Discussion of the plan.
Once your therapist has evaluated your strength and range of motion, they'll let you know how you are doing and how far you need to go. This discussion will probably include a discussion of how many sessions you will need and how often. The therapist will also give you an idea of whether you can expect a full recovery or if you may have some lingering symptoms in your knee even after surgery and physical therapy.
Demonstration of exercises.
After discussing your therapy plan, your physical therapist will start guiding you through some exercises designed to straighten and stretch your knee. These exercises may include towel stretches, for example, which have you sit on your bottom and loop a towel around the bottom of your foot, while you push against the towel with your foot. They may also include heel slides, and stepping up and down off a raised block. If you have a question about these exercises, ask — it's important to know how to do them as you'll probably be asked to do them on your own, at home.
After your exercises are complete, your therapist will likely give you some updated care instructions for home. For instance, they may tell you to decrease your icing frequency, to spend more time with your leg elevated, or to change your bandages more often.
ACL surgery is just the first step. Attending physical therapy after surgery is the next step to recovery. Now you have a better idea of what to expect as you start PT. If you have more questions about post-surgery physical therapy, reach out to a physical therapist.