Will An ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

Most of us avoid a trip to the doctor whenever we can, and it’s easy to understand why. When you’re already not feeling great, the last thing you want to do is face commuting across Singapore to get poked and prodded. It’s no surprise to us how many patients ask us the same question: Will an ACL tear heal on its own? After all, aren’t our bodies designed to heal themselves?

When it comes to ACL tears, there is no simple answer that will apply in every case. Each injury is different and everyone has a different path ahead of them. To help you understand what to expect, let’s dive in to take a closer look at this common injury. 

What Is an ACL Tear?

ACL tear is one of the many kinds of common knee injuries. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a key ligament that stabilises your knee. Your ACL connects the bone of your shin to the bone of your thigh. When you hear your doctor talk about an ACL injury, you’ll be told that there is a possibility of tearing or spraining your anterior cruciate ligament. These are two different issues. 

When it comes to treating an ACL injury, it is essential to know the difference between a sprain and a tear. While there are different symptoms for each, a healthcare professional must check your knee to know which you are dealing with. 

Only with proper testing can you be confident if you have an ACL tear or sprain. These two ACL injuries have different treatment plans and you can end up with a lifetime of pain if you don’t get your injury properly checked. 

What’s the Difference Between an ACL Tear and ACL Sprain?

Your ACL is the most common ligament to be injured in your knee. An ACL injury can be either a tear or a sprain. In the case of an ACL tear, your ligament is torn partially or completely. If you have an ACL sprain, your ligament is overstretched but not torn. An ACL sprain can be classed as a grade one or grade two injury.

If you have an ACL sprain, you are only dealing with a minor injury. It is not likely that you will be facing any long-term damage to your ligament. For a sprain, your doctor will recommend one or two weeks of rest along with regular ice compresses and over-the-counter pain medication.

What Causes an ACL Tear?

An ACL tear can be caused by acute trauma or repetitive movement. When your shin bone moves forward past your thigh bone and then rotates, your ACL can stretch and tear. 

A tear to your ACL can happen when you have your foot firmly on the ground and you take a blow to the knee. It might also happen if you jump up and land on the ground in a certain way or change direction quickly.

Why Are ACL Tears So Common? 

Tearing your anterior cruciate ligament is common in basketball, football, volleyball, tennis, and any other sport that requires you to stop suddenly or quickly change directions. You might tear your ACL when you kick, shoot, twist, turn, or get bumped into during a game. The popping or cracking sound and flash of pain will tell you that something is not right. 

Is an ACL Injury Serious?

A torn ACL can impact you for several months or even your entire life. The severity and longevity of the injury depend on your treatment. Successful recovery only comes from proper treatment. In most cases of an ACL tear, surgery is essential. Most of the time, your ACL needs to be reconstructed then you need to diligently work through up to one year of rehabilitation.

If you are only dealing with a strain, you can avoid surgery and all of this rehab. The only way to know if your injury is serious, however, is to have it looked at by a healthcare professional. It is crucial to talk to your doctor and undergo all of the essential tests. 

How Long Does It Take for an ACL Injury to Heal?

Athletes and those working in highly physical jobs or sports such as HIIT or F45 may often deal with ACL injuries. Each injury is a bit different and requires different treatment. While only your doctor can advise on your exact treatment, there are general guidelines that we can look at in the case of most ACL injuries. 

When it comes to an ACL sprain, you’ll typically be back on your feet again within one to two weeks. If you have an ACL tear, plan for six months to one year to be completely back to normal. This is entirely dependent on proper treatment, however. If you ignore the problem or don’t stay diligent in your rehabilitation, the issue can plague you for the rest of your life. 

Can an ACL Tear Heal Without Surgery?

If you have a sprain or a very minor tear, the injury may heal with non-surgical treatment options like rest and icing or physical therapy. If you have a full ACL tear, surgery is imperative. These types of tears simply can’t heal themselves.  

Why Won’t an ACL Tear Heal by Itself? 

An ACL injury can’t heal itself because you don’t get a blood supply to the ligament. The usual process that your body would undergo to hear itself is impossible with your ACL. That is why surgery is key, especially for athletes who need to regain complete movement. 

People often confuse medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries with ACL injuries. They think that because they have had an MCL issue in the past that healed with rest, an ACL tear can be treated the same way. 

It’s important to realise that your MCL is an extra-articular ligament, which means that it is outside your knee joint. Your ACL, on the other hand, is an intra-articular ligament, which means that it’s inside the joint of your knee. 

Your MCL can heal with rest and then be rehabilitated. That’s because when you tear your MCL, a blood clot forms on the injury. That blot clot will create a bridge when the repair can start. Your body will start building up fresh collagen tissue that will fill the torn space. 

When it comes to ACL tears, however, this process is impossible. Located inside of your knee joint, your ACL is constantly exposed to synovial fluid. This prevents it from building that blood clot and ultimately repairing itself.

If you’re looking for exercises to relieve knee pain, you can try these exercises by Ray of Health.

Treating an ACL Injury 

Quick and adequate treatment is key for successful ACL injury treatment. Avoid a lifetime of pain and problems by making that orthopaedic doctor’s appointment today. Call us at +65 6235 8781, connect on Whatsapp at +65 8028 4572 or email hello@quantumortho.com.sg.

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