Injuries to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) are very common, particularly among athletes and active individuals. When this vital knee-supporting ligament is torn or stretched, it may result in knee pain, swelling and instability. If an individual is experiencing these symptoms, they may wonder: “Does ACL repair itself?” In short, the answer is no – an ACL injury is not likely to heal on its own, as this ligament receives limited blood supply. In turn, it’s important to seek professional treatment as soon as possible to prevent lingering knee instability and other potentially debilitating symptoms. This article will explore treatment options which may be recommended for an ACL tear or sprain.
Does ACL Repair Itself? Treatment Options
Since the answer to “does ACL repair itself?” is “typically not,” what treatments are available? As with any ligament injury, the appropriate course of treatment will largely depend on the severity of the tear or sprain.
ACL injuries are categorized by grade, ranging from grade 1 (mild) to grade 3 (severe). In the case of a grade 1 injury, the ACL has been stretched but can still provide some level of stability to the knee joint. A grade 2 injury is characterized by a partial tear of the ACL, whereas grade 3 is used to describe a fully torn ACL that no longer provides adequate stability to the knee joint.
While pain and swelling may subside over time with more minor ACL injuries, instability may still persist. Thus, it is wise to visit an orthopedic expert for treatment when one suspects any sort of ACL injury. In many cases, ACL damage can be successfully treated through a combination of conservative, nonsurgical methods, such as:
- Performing physical therapy exercises designed to restore range of motion, strength & stability to the affected knee
- Taking time off from activities to prevent worsening damage
- Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as needed to manage pain & swelling
- Wearing an ACL brace to support and stabilize the joint during recovery
In the event that these first-line methods fail to fully resolve a patient’s symptoms and stabilize their knee, surgical ACL reconstruction may be suggested as the next step in treatment. ACL reconstruction may be performed as arthroscopic or open surgery, depending on the individual case.
Most orthopedic surgeons – including Dr. Stephen Soffer – favor the use of minimally invasive arthroscopic ACL repair whenever possible. Benefits of this method as compared to traditional “open” surgery include: fewer and smaller incisions, less trauma, shorter recovery time and reduced risk of side effects.
Meet with Dr. Soffer to Explore Treatments to Resolve Your ACL Injury
If you are living with knee pain and instability after a sports injury, count on Dr. Soffer to help put you on the path to a full recovery. As a top-rated expert specializing in the full range of knee injuries and conditions, Dr. Soffer provides both conservative and surgical treatments for ACL damage of any severity. As part of his intensive training in orthopedics, Dr. Soffer is proud to have completed a sports medicine fellowship alongside esteemed sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
To learn more about Dr. Soffer’s credentials and schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options, call our office at 610-375-4949.