Will An ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

Full ACL tears are not self-healing. These tears almost always require surgical intervention, usually through the minimally invasive procedure called arthroscopy. Surgery may be necessary for even partial ACL tears if other ligaments, tendons, or your kneecap is also injured.

Ultimately, each case is different and requires its own treatment. Your ACL tear specialist may recommend physical therapy,  surgery, or a combination of both. If your tear is minor, you may only need rest and simple home treatments but it’s crucial to have your knee checked before looking for home remedies.

Do’s and Don’ts when you have an ACL tear injury

If you have an ACL tear injury, there are a few do’s and don’ts that can help you heal more quickly and avoid any complications.

Do’s

  • Give your injured knee as much rest as possible.
  • Follow the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
  • Keep doing the exercises as instructed by your physiotherapist to strengthen the knee and surrounding muscles.
  • Contact your doctor if you feel your pain or swelling has increased.

Don’ts

  • Don’t indulge in sports activities unless your ACL tear has recovered completely.
  • Don’t add any stretching or strength training exercises to your workout without consulting your doctor such as a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist.

If you’re looking for exercises to relieve knee pain or simply relief from aches, you can try these exercises by Ray of Health. Alternatively, you might also be interested in exercises that strengthen your core.

Treating ACL Tear At Home

The most effective treatment for an ACL tear at home is to follow the RICE protocol:

  • Rest: Give your affected knee as much rest as possible and avoid activities that may aggravate the ACL tear. This will help with the pain and swelling and aid in recovery.
  • Ice: Apply ice on the affected knee for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. This will help reduce swelling in the knee area.
  • Compression: Keep the affected knee wrapped in a compression bandage to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Elevation: While lying down, elevate your knee above the heart level by placing pillows underneath it. This also helps in decreasing swelling.

Although, you can try to do the RICE protocol at home if you suspect an ACL tear, it is always advisable to visit a doctor for proper evaluation and diagnosis so that treatment can be started accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where will I feel an ACL tear?

When you experience an ACL tear, you will immediately feel pain in your knee. Your knee may also start to swell within 24 hours of the injury.

What is the difference between an ACL tear and an ACL sprain?

An ACL tear is the case where the ACL is actually torn either partially or completely. On the other hand, an ACL sprain is when the ACL is stretched but not torn. An ACL sprain may heal with home remedies while an ACL tear may require surgical intervention.

How can I prevent an ACL tear?

There are ways in which you can prevent an ACL tear injury by strengthening your core and lower body muscles. By doing strength training exercises that target the hamstrings and quadriceps, you can reduce the risk of an ACL tear. Similarly, if you have a strong core, it will help improve balance in the knees which is crucial to prevent an ACL tear.

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Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

About the Author

Dr James Tan is a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.

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