ACL tears do not usually heal on their own. Typically, the tear needs to be surgically repaired in order for the body to recover. However, orthopedic surgeons are rarely able to schedule ACL surgery at a moment's notice, and sometimes your surgeon may want to wait a few weeks before performing surgery so that your inflammation comes down. Here are some tips on how to manage your pain before your surgery.
Wear a knee brace.
If your orthopedic doctor does not send you home with a knee brace, visit your local pharmacy and buy one. A knee brace will limit the range of motion of your knee so you don't put as much strain on your ACL. This, in turn, will help minimize your pain. Wear the knee brace all day, even when you don't plan on doing much walking. It will help even when you're tempted to bend your leg when sitting.
Ice your knee.
Ice is often recommended to heal minor injuries. Since your ACL won't heal on its own, you may figure there's no point in icing it. However, ice can also help dull the pain in your injured knee, and for that reason, it is a good therapy to use as you await ACL surgery. Flexible ice packs tend to work best since they bend to the contours of your knee and can offer more contact on the side of your knee where the ACL is located. You can ice your knee as often as is needed throughout the day to reduce your pain.
Talk to your orthopedic doctor about taking NSAID pain relievers. These non-addictive pain relievers work, in part, by reducing inflammation, which is one of the key sources of pain when you have an ACL tear. However, they can have side effects like stomach irritation when used over longer periods. Your doctor can advise you on how often you should take these medications to maximize your pain relief without risking serious side effects.
Go to physical therapy.
Some surgeons may require you to go to physical therapy before ACL surgery. Others may offer this as an option. Either way, attending your physical therapy sessions and doing the recommended exercises can help control your pain. The exercises will be designed to strengthen the tissues around your ACL so less pressure is put on the torn ligament. You'll then experience less pain.
The period between an ACL tear and surgery can be a painful one, but with the tips above, you should be able to keep your pain under control.
To learn more information about pain management, reach out to an orthopedist near you.