Getting Active Again After an ACL Tear

Maybe you’re an athlete who planted, pivoted, and heard a pop. Or maybe you had a bad fall or a car accident that hyperextended your knee. Whatever the cause, your torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is extremely painful and inconvenient. All you want to do is stop the pain and get back on your feet.

That’s what we do here at The Frazier Foot and Ankle Clinic in Cypress, Texas. As an expert podiatrist, Dr. Michael Frazier knows that your feet and ankles provide the stable foundation you need for proper recovery from your ACL injury. We can help you get active again as quickly as possible. Here’s how.

Understanding an ACL tear

Your knee joint has four ligaments: the anterior, posterior, medial, and lateral. They work together to stabilize your joint, connect your thigh bone and shin bone, and allow you to bend, flex, walk, run, and jump. When you hyperextend your knee, you can easily tear your ACL, which leaves you in an unstable and quite painful situation.

What it takes to recover from an ACL tear

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be facing a few weeks of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (the RICE treatment), or you may need surgery to repair the tear. Either way, you can expect some downtime while you rehab your knee and strengthen the joint. 

Many factors play a role in how quickly and completely you recover from an ACL tear, including the strength of your muscles, particularly your quadriceps, prior to your injury and your adherence to your rehab instructions. Most of the attention focuses, understandably, on your knee joint and the surrounding muscles. So what can a podiatrist do to help you recover?

How podiatry can aid in ACL recovery

As the song goes: The knee bone’s connected to the shin bone; the shin bone’s connected to the ankle bone; the ankle bone’s connected to the foot bone. Although oversimplified and not 100% anatomically correct, the song makes an important point: The parts of your body are not only interconnected, they’re interdependent. What happens to one part affects the others.

That’s why recovery from an ACL tear not only requires strong muscles in the thigh and calf, it also calls for exceptional stability in your ankle and foot. That’s where Dr. Frazier comes in.

Gait analysis

Gait is the term used to describe the way you walk. Injury or illness can affect how your body parts move together, especially if you’re trying to avoid painful positions or movements. After an ACL injury, you may change the way your foot hits the ground, called a heel strike, to prevent pain. Over time, that altered movement can cause damage to your feet and ankles. 

Dr. Frazier can analyze your gait and make sure your position, muscle force, pressure, joint movement, etc., are in alignment. The better your gait, the better your chances for a full ACL recovery.

Proper footwear 

Once you get to the stage of your ACL recovery where you can bear weight and begin walking, your choice of shoes is an important part of your rehab. 

Every patient’s needs are different after an ACL injury. That’s why it’s best to come in and see Dr. Frazier so he can assess your injury, your musculoskeletal condition, your gait, and your recovery goals. This allows him to advise you on exactly the right type of shoe to aid in your rehabilitation. He can recommend brands and models that optimize the distribution of pressure from heel to toe and have roll bars to maximize stability. 

Orthotics

In some cases, you may need a little extra help in stabilizing your feet and correcting your gait. Dr. Frazier may suggest wearing orthotics in your shoes to assist you. 

These are medical devices prescribed by a physician, not the same as the shoe inserts you might see in a drugstore. Orthotics can help decrease foot pain from various sources, including arthritis, diabetes, bursitis, and plantar fasciitis, and they can also be an effective tool in your ACL tear recovery treatment plan.

Further, they may be able to help prevent an ACL injury from happening, or happening again. Because ACL tears are more common in women and especially women athletes involved in sports where sudden stops and changes of direction are required, women’s basketball offers an ideal lab for researching this. A study of female basketball players found that those who did not wear orthotics were more than seven times more likely to sustain an ACL injury than those who wore them.

If you’ve suffered an ACL injury, come see us for a more complete treatment plan that will get you active again even faster. Call us today or request an appointment online. 

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