What Treatments Should I Try Before ACL Surgery?

Your knee joint connects the femur and tibia — the bones in your thigh and shin — but the joint itself is held together by several ligaments. The ligament that does the most to stabilize your knee and help you balance is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Because your ACL is tasked with preventing your tibia from sliding forward and rotating on your femur, it’s most susceptible to injury when you’re twisting, rotating, pivoting, or stepping sideways. That’s why ACL injuries happen so often in sports.  

ACL injuries are often easy to diagnose — some people hear a loud “pop” when the injury occurs, and most people have to immediately stop the sport or activity they were doing. Pain, swelling, and limited range of motion soon follow.

Although a torn ACL won’t heal completely without surgery, many people can still find sufficient healing and restored function with a conservative, nonsurgical treatment approach.

At StarOrtho in Rancho Mirage and La Quinta, California, we’ve helped many people overcome ACL injuries without surgery. You might be able to benefit from conservative treatment measures, too.  


Orthotic devices, or braces, can support, immobilize, or help repair a specific part of your body in order to heal it, improve its function, or manage pain. Wearing an orthotic device during injury rehabilitation helps you maintain proper alignment and gives you a more controlled range of motion.   

Knee braces that are specifically designed to stabilize your knee and compensate for a weak or injured ACL can help protect the joint and improve its overall function. The brace aims to control the motion of the joint, reduce pain, and correct structural irregularities or prevent them from progressing.

Bracing is often used early on in the healing process. It’s sometimes used in combination with crutches, so you can support your joint while keeping your weight off of it. Bracing can also help facilitate physical therapy by reinforcing the joint while you work to strengthen the muscles around it.

Physical therapy

Most ACL injuries respond very well to physical therapy. Performing specific, prescribed exercises helps decrease inflammation, strengthen the surrounding muscles, and restore joint function.

After an ACL injury, your joint isn’t stable, your range of motion is limited, and your leg is weaker. It’s important to introduce movement and exercise therapy as soon as possible in the healing process because reducing inflammation can help prevent imbalance and instability around the injured joint. As inflammation diminishes, your range of motion and muscular strength are also more readily restored.

The main goal of physical therapy is to improve or restore strength and functionality with simple therapeutic exercises that don’t take too much time to execute. You should start slowly, progress gradually, and never push yourself to the point of discomfort or pain.  

For most people with ACL injuries, physical therapy begins by strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings — the muscles in your thigh that help you move your knee.  

Physical therapy is by far one of the best things you can do for an ACL injury, whether you ultimately decide to have surgery or not. Even better, a well-planned program can help you achieve normal range of motion and strength, which may be all you require.


Physical therapy doesn’t end once you’re able to walk normally; rehabilitation plays a vital role in helping you manage a weakened ACL so you don’t suffer another injury.  

Once your knee is more settled, rehabilitation (or advanced physical therapy) aims to address any muscle weakness present around your knee, hip, spine and pelvis, as well as any deficiencies you may have in balance and coordination.

During rehabilitation, knee stability improves even more through intensive therapeutic exercises designed to help you increase balance, coordination, and control.

A well-balanced rehabilitation program has four main components:

If you’d like to find out more about how conservative ACL injury management can benefit you, we’re ready to help at StarOrtho. Call our Rancho Mirage or La Quinta office today, or make an appointment with our convenient online booking tool.

You Might Also Enjoy...

3 Tips for Finding Relief From Arthritis Pain

The pain from the degenerative joint disease of osteoarthritis may be addressed with medications, injections, and, sometimes, surgery. But you can do a lot on your own to find relief from pain. Read on to learn three major ways.