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What Are the Best Tips for Recovering from a Knee Ligament Operation?

Physical therapy is often required after surgery to strengthen the knee and surrounding muscles and improve range of motion.
A doctor should be consulted immediately for an infection following a knee ligament operation.
A diagram of the knee, showing the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, and lateral collateral ligament.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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The risk of infection is the most common complication of a knee ligament operation, so the most important tip for recovery is to keep the wound clean and dry while healing takes place. This can be difficult, but keeping the wound bandaged and replacing those bandages as recommended by the doctor is a vital step in the healing process. The size of the wound can vary depending on the type of knee ligament operation that is performed; arthroscopic surgery will only create a few small holes, while open surgery will make a larger incision. Care of the wound is especially important after open surgery.

One of the most important steps in the recovery process is rest. During this period of time, the patient should monitor the wound and look for any signs of infection. If any redness, swelling, oozing, or exceptional pain occurs, the patient should consult a doctor immediately to ensure the infection can be treated quickly. If anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed after a knee ligament operation, it is important for the patient to take such medication as prescribed; painkillers can be taken as prescribed as well. The knee should stay covered to prevent infection until the wounds have begun healing.

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Athletes often have a difficult time recovering from a knee ligament operation because the recovery period can take up to a year or more. It is very important to allow the knee to heal sufficiently before any athletic activities are attempted; this is often quite difficult for athletes who want to continue training or stay in shape. Starting exercise too soon after surgery will risk infection, swelling, and even re-injury of the ligament, thereby postponing recovery even further. Some doctors recommend physical therapy or limited athletic activity only a few months after a knee ligament operation, so the patient can discuss potential recovery processes accordingly.

After healing has begun and weight can be put on the knee, many doctors recommend beginning exercise. Athletes have a tendency to do too much too soon, while others may not exercise the injury enough. The best way to determine how much exercise should be done is to consult a physical therapist who can design a recovery strategy for the knee ligament operation injuries. Once physical therapy has begun, rest will become even more important, as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the knee will be weakened from a lack of use. Easing into the recovery exercises is a wise decision whenever possible.

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