Physiotherapy for ACL Tear – Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear

An ACL tear occurs when the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) within your knee joint is partially or completely torn causing symptoms. ACL tears may be experienced by athletes who participate in high demand sports like soccer, basketball, football, or rugby that require them to suddenly run and stop, kick forcefully, jump, or pivot.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ACL tear may include hearing a pop at the time of the tear; pain and swelling; and difficulty moving the knee or feeling of the knee becoming unstable when used.


First aid treatments for an ACL tear include rest, ice application, wrapping a bandage, and elevating your limb. This first aid is called RICE therapy. Taking pain medication may help relieve your symptoms. You may need to use crutches to avoid putting added stress to your injured knee.

Physiotherapy can also help you manage your symptoms, strengthen your weakened muscles and safely return you to your original activity or achieve your highest possible function.

Surgery may be necessary if your symptoms are not controlled conservatively or you have severe damage to your knee structures. If your goal is to return to your original sports, you may need surgery. Talk to your doctor about appropriate interventions for your particular injury.

Physiotherapy Treatments for ACL Tears

Whether you’ve undergone knee surgery or not, your physiotherapist will be able to help you get back to your original activity or achieve full independence or your highest possible function. Your physiotherapist will likely ask about your activity at the time of your injury. He or shi will also perform a thorough evaluation and examination of your knee.

Depending on the severity of your injury, your particular needs and goals, your physiotherapist may provide you with a combination of any of the following
  • Ice or heat pack application
  • TENS
  • Ultrasound (US)
  • Functional electrical nerve stimulation
  • Soft tissue mobilization
  • Joint mobilization
  • Suggest use of walking aid (e.g. crutches, walker or cane)
  • Walking aid use training
  • Range of motion (ROM) exercises
  • Stretching/flexibility exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Patient education
    • About ACL tear
    • Precautions
    • Activity modification
    • Self care of wound (if undergone surgery)
    • Self care of symptoms
    • Injury prevention
  • Return to work or sports rehabilitation program

The treatments enumerated above are general treatments. Not all of them will be provided to you during your first day of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation of ACL tear is divided into several stages. Your physiotherapist will determine what appropriate treatments are best for you.


Conditions and Injuries l All About Physiotherapy

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