The TRUTH About ACL Knee Injury Exercises

Here is a question regarding exercises for an ACL knee injury and knee sprain:

Q: Hi Kevin.

Some years ago I tore the ACL in my right knee. My left knee was sprained a couple of years later. Since then my knees have been periodically sore and painful. I am curious if there are any exercises that can improve my knees’ condition.

Thanks

May N

A: Hi May,

There are definitely exercises you can do to help your knee injuries however the exercises depend on a few things like if you had ACL reconstruction surgery, how you sprained your left knee (MCL, meniscus, etc.), which movements bother your knees the most and what types of activity you typically participate in and if you went through a knee rehabilitation program.

So, before getting into knee injury exercises I’d like to try to help you get a better understanding of what’s going on so you can seek the proper knee injury treatment needed.

Following your ACL knee injury,  it’s very likely that you had to rely more on your left leg during weight bearing activities.  This is particularly true if you did not have reconstruction surgery or a physical rehabilitation program.

It is possible that the left knee sprain could have been the result of the left leg overcompensating for the right resulting in repetitive stress to the knee.  Repetitive stress occurs over a period of time after dominant muscles do the work for weaker or inhibited muscles. These minor stresses add up and over time you begin to feel pain or experience a knee injury.

Another possibility is that the left knee sprain could have been due to your left leg being weaker than the right but suddenly with the ACL knee injury your left leg had to bear the brunt of the work during weight bearing activities.

The first thing to do is get a clear diagnosis on the condition of your knees by your physician.

This will let you know exactly what you’re dealing with. It’s a way to know the extent of the real condition of your knees and if anything has changed.

Next, check with your physician on which knee rehab exercises are appropriate and not appropriate for you.  If you did not have ACL reconstruction surgery then you will have less stability when you fully extend your knee so you’ll want to be careful about those movements and make sure you do not over-extend the knee.

One common problem I notice with my clients who have had previous knee injuries is that their hips are typically weak. The hips are very important because they are stronger muscles that are meant to do most of the work during weight bearing activities like squatting up and down, walking stairs, running, etc.

They also help dissipate stress to the knees when your foot contacts the ground like walking down stairs, walking and running.

One way to determine if your hips are weak is to do a simple squat test.  The test is best if you can perform it next to a mirror.

If you have a full length mirror then stand with one side of your body facing the mirror. Perform the squat test by simply holding your arms out in front of you at mid chest height and slowly squat down to about ½ way or so. Hold this position for 30 seconds and notice:

  1. The muscles in your legs that are working the most. Your thighs, knees or the back of your legs?

2. Your upper body (trunk). Notice what position it is in at the beginning and then look in the mirror at the end and see if it changed by moving more forward and lower (your         chest closer to your thighs).

If you felt your thighs doing most of the work or knee pain your hips are probably weak and need strengthening.  Also, if your trunk collapsed more forward and lower during the test, then you most likely felt your thighs and possibly your lower back which also indicates hip and abdominal weakness.

In this case, an exercise program focused on conditioning the muscles of your hips should help minimize your knee pain and soreness

 

Hi May,

There are definitely exercises you can do to help your knees however the exercises depend on a few things like if you had ACL reconstruction surgery, how you sprained your left knee (MCL, meniscus, etc.), which movements bother your knees the most and what types of activity you typically participate in.

So, before getting into exercises I’d like to try to help you get a better understanding of what’s most likely making your knees sore and painful.

Since you tore your right ACL it’s very likely that you had to rely more on your left leg during weight bearing activities. This is particularly true if you did not have reconstruction surgery or a physical rehabilitation program.

It is possible that the left knee sprain could have been the result of the left leg overcompensating for the right resulting in repetitive stress to the knee. Repetitive stress occurs over a period of time after dominant muscles do the work for weaker or inhibited muscles. These minor stresses add up and over time you begin to feel pain or experience an injury.

Another possibility is that the left knee sprain could have been due to your left leg being weaker than the right but suddenly with the ACL injury your left leg had to bear the brunt of the work during weight bearing activities.

The first thing to do is get a clear diagnosis on the condition of your knees by your physician.

This will let you know exactly what you’re dealing with. It’s a way to know the extent of the real condition of your knees and if anything has changed.

Next, check with your physician on which exercises are appropriate and not appropriate for you. If you did not have ACL reconstruction surgery then you will have less stability when you fully extend your knee so you’ll want to be careful about those movements and make sure you do not over-extend the knee.

One common problem I notice with my clients who have had previous knee injuries is that their hips are typically weak. The hips are very important because they are stronger muscles that are meant to do most of the work during weight bearing activities like squatting up and down, walking stairs, running, etc.

They also help dissipate stress to the knees when your foot contacts the ground like walking down stairs, walking and running.

One way to determine if your hips are weak is to do a simple squat test. The test is best if you can perform it next to a mirror.

If you have a full length mirror then stand with one side of your body facing the mirror. Perform the squat test by simply holding your arms out in front of you at mid chest height and slowly squat down to about ½ way or so. Hold this position for 30 seconds and notice:

1.The muscles in your legs that are working the most. Your thighs or the back of your legs?

2.Your upper body (trunk). Notice what position it is in at the beginning and then look in the mirror at the end and see if it changed by moving more forward and lower (your chest closer to your thighs).

If you felt your thighs doing most of the work your hips are probably weak and need strengthening. Also, if your trunk collapsed more forward and lower during the test, then you most likely felt your thighs and possibly your lower back which also indicates hip and abdominal weakness.

In this case, an exercise program focused on conditioning the muscles of your hips should help minimize your knee pain and soreness.

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