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Resources & Support Orthopedics

ACL Injury
Resources & Support

At UCSF Health, we are renowned for our highly specialized and cutting-edge medical care. Along with innovative medicine, we strive to provide a variety of services to ensure that patients and families are fully supported while in our care. UCSF has a team of experienced social workers and condition-specific support groups as well as classes to help patients and families navigate their experiences while in our clinics and hospitals.

Our support services also include unique programs to help heal the mind and spirit, such as Art for Recovery, Healing Through Dance and complimentary spa treatments during infusion therapy. During an unfamiliar and stressful time, UCSF’s support services are ready to lend a hand whenever patients and families need it most.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When can I shower after surgery?

    You should keep your dressing on and knee dry until your first post-op visit, at which point you'll likely be cleared to shower. But don't submerge the surgical site in a bathtub or swimming pool until three to four weeks have passed since your surgery.

  • When will I have a follow-up appointment?

    You'll see your doctor one to two weeks after surgery for a knee exam, suture removal and X-rays.

  • When should I start physical therapy?

    You should start as soon as possible, in the first week or two after surgery. Patient often have the first session right after their first post-op appointment.

  • How long will I be on crutches?

    You'll use crutches for somewhere between four and six weeks, depending on factors including the severity of your injury, any other structures that were repaired in your knee and the amount of post-op swelling.

  • Do cold therapy devices provide the best pain relief?

    You can choose among a number of icing methods, such as placing a regular ice pack or package of frozen vegetables over the bandages. Cold therapy units, which work by recirculating ice water through a pad over your knee, are effective but somewhat expensive. They can be purchased online, at medical supply stores or at UCSF orthotics and prosthetics centers.

  • Will I have stitches?

    You'll have three or four stitches that will be removed seven to 10 days after surgery, at your first post-op appointment.

  • When can I return to school or work after ACL surgery?

    Most patients are ready to return to school or desk work five to seven days after surgery. If you're able to work from home, your initial recovery period will be easier. For a physically demanding job, you'll need more time for a safe recovery and medical clearance before returning to work.

  • When can I drive after ACL surgery?

    That depends on which leg had surgery. If you had surgery on your left knee and have an automatic car, you can drive once you're no longer taking narcotic pain medication and feel capable of doing so safely. If you had surgery on your right knee, you'll need to wait three to six weeks after surgery to get medical clearance from your surgeon to drive.

Preparing for ACL Surgery

The decisions you make and actions you take before your surgery can be as important as the procedure itself in ensuring a healthy recovery.

Prepare. Make sure you understand the potential risks and benefits of the surgery you’ll be having. Ask your surgeon any questions you have. Talking with someone who has undergone the procedure can also be helpful.

Talk to your surgeon. Tell your surgeon about your health problems – everything from a recent fever or infection to a chronic condition such as asthma or sleep apnea – and about any medications you take. Your surgeon will review your health history at your pre-op appointment.

Follow instructions. You’ll be instructed not to eat or drink after midnight on the night before your surgery. This reduces the risk of vomiting while under general anesthesia, which can lead to complications. Don’t drink alcohol, smoke or take recreational drugs prior to surgery.

Arrange transportation. You’ll need someone you know to drive you home a few hours after your surgery, since the anesthetic and pain medications will make you drowsy. You won’t be allowed to leave the hospital on your own.

Practice using crutches. Learn to use crutches before you actually need them. Your physical therapist or the athletic trainer on your care team can instruct you on proper technique at your pre-op appointment.

Dress comfortably. On surgery day, wear loose pants or other clothing that will fit comfortably over your knee bandages and post-op brace.

Relax. Keeping a good frame of mind can ease any anxiety you have about undergoing surgery. Distractions such as reading, listening to music or podcasts, or practicing mindfulness mediation can help.

Take care of your knees

Five Steps to Improve Strength and Flexibility

Although knee ligament injuries are common, you can take steps to reduce your risk:

  • Manage your weight. Every pound in excess of your normal weight puts 3 or 4 additional pounds of pressure on your knee with every step.
  • Keep your legs strong. The hamstrings (the muscles of the back of the thigh) and the quadriceps (those at the front) are crucial shock absorbers. Keeping these muscles strong and flexible protects the surfaces of your knee joints.
  • Stretch your muscles. Stretching before exercise should be a regular part of your warm-up. However, it's also important not to overstretch. Never use your hands to push or pull beyond what's comfortable, and avoid squatting during your warm-up, which can stress your knee joint.
  • Wear proper shoes. Well-fitting athletic shoes with suitable cushioning or support can reduce the impact on your knees.
  • Ease into shape. If you want to take up activities that require twisting and turning – such as racket sports, skiing, soccer or basketball – don't assume you can play yourself into shape. Develop your fitness and strength before you get active in sports that are hard on knees.

Support services at UCSF Health

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Patient Resource

Case Management & Social Work

Connect with a team that can help you find resources, solve problems and advocate for you during treatment at UCSF.

Class

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class

This eight-week class teaches mindfulness practices that can reduce stress and improve your overall health, such as meditation and body awareness.

Patient Resource

Patient Relations

We welcome feedback about your experience at UCSF Health. Find out how to contact us with comments, questions or concerns.

Patient Resource

Spiritual Care Services

Chaplains representing many faiths are available around the clock to provide support, comfort and counsel to patients, families and caregivers.

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