What is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear?
A common type of knee ligament injury, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears cause pain and swelling in the knee. You may also feel your knee becomes unstable or gives way causing you to fall or stumble.
The band of tissue connecting one bone with another is called a ligament. One of the most important ligaments in your knee, connecting the thighbone (femur) with the shinbone (tibia), is the ACL. This ligament plays a crucial role ensuring that your knee doesn’t move too far backward or forward.
Symptoms of an ACL Tear
ACL tears commonly occur when playing sports involving rapid movements and changes in direction, such as football, basketball, rugby or netball. It may also occur when you slow down all of a sudden while you are changing direction, or for example when you are tackled causing your knee to bend awkwardly.
Most people who’ve had an ACL tear will remember hearing or feeling a “pop” or “crack” as the injury occurred. The knee usually becomes swollen within a few hours of an ACL tear. If you have torn your ACL your knee may also feel wobbly or unstable.
Diagnosing an ACL Tear
At My Knee Doc, expert surgeon, Mr Gareth Stables will usually be able to diagnose this condition by learning about your symptoms; carrying out a physical examination and having you recount the history of your injury.
If we believe you may have an ACL tear, My Knee Doc will recommend a special imaging test called a MRI scan. The MRI scan will be looked at and reported by one of our expert radiologists who specialise in bone and joint injuries.
The MRI scan helps us look at your knee from inside. The MRI helps in ruling out the presence of any other injuries, and also helps us in planning the appropriate treatment for you.
Treating ACL Tears
There are a few things you can do to alleviate the pain and ease the symptoms. You can:
Take over the counter pain relief medicine like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Avoid any activity or movement that worsens the pain.
Apply ice on the injured area every time you experience pain or after activities that may cause pain. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or couple of hours, as necessary. For best results, place a thin towel between your skin and the ice.
At My Knee Doc, we work closely with specialist physiotherapists and we can recommend special exercises for a specific period after the ACL injury. These rehabilitation exercises help strengthen the muscles around your knee as well as your knee. You can get back to normal activity sooner if you do the prescribed exercises.
Once the swelling and the pain subside, sometimes, an operation may be necessary to reconstruct the torn anterior cruciate ligament.
However, surgery is not always needed. Some patients may only require further rehabilitation exercises.
Is surgery right for me?
So how do we decide whether you need a surgery or rehabilitation therapy? At My Knee Doc, your surgeon will consider a lot of things such as:
The kind of physical activity you usually indulge in. If you are highly active or carry out a lot activities that involve turning or twisting the knee, then surgery may be recommended.
The level of stability you feel in your knee after the rehabilitation period.
Presence of any other health conditions or problems.
Your willingness to dedicate time to rehab therapy after the reconstruction surgery. How well the surgery works entirely depends on how much work you are willing to put in.
My Knee Doc will discuss your options with you to help you choose the course of action that’s right for you.
Preventing ACL Injuries
You can reduce your chances of getting an ACL injury if you:
Stay active and do exercises that make the muscles that support the knee strong and flexible. As part of your training, work on your balance, for example by standing on one foot.
Learn how to move so there is less stress on the knee during sports. This might involve talking to a sports medicine specialist, a physiotherapist or a fitness expert about how to move and position your body, especially during physical activity.
Contact My Knee Doc for further information about ACL injury and to discuss your options.
Call 0161 4646399 today to arrange a consultation with Mr Gareth Stables.