3 ways that PT can help you return to driving after surgery on your ACL

Recovering from a major surgery can be a long and challenging journey. Have you recently had an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery? After ACL surgery, post-surgical rehabilitation is an integral part of making a complete recovery. The ACL is an important ligament located around the center of the knee. Like the other ligaments, the ACL functions to connect your bones and joints. The ACL specifically works to keep the shinbone and thighbone apart at the knee. This helps keep both bones stable and provides support for the knee joint. Because of the ACL’s importance in your knee’s everyday functions, an ACL injury can have a major impact on your mobility. Even after a reconstruction surgery, you may have some difficulty using your knee. Learning more about the typical recovery timeline after an ACL surgery can help you make a successful recovery.


While recovering from an ACL surgery, patients often ask a crucial question: “When can I get back to my normal daily activities?” After all, ACL issues can make it hard to keep up with your regular routine. One major activity that you might wonder about is driving. If you don’t have other convenient means of transportation, being able to drive can be essential. Though it can be tempting to start driving again immediately after surgery, doing so can be dangerous. Knowing when you can safely return to driving is vital for a smooth transition.


When can you start driving after your ACL or meniscus surgery?


Wondering about the exact timeline for your return to driving? Your timeline will depend on many different factors. Some of the most important factors include your physical condition, the extent of your surgery and your current recovery trajectory. The timeline may also change depending on which knee is affected. If the surgery was done on your left knee, you can typically return to driving more quickly. Your physical therapy provider might recommend a return to driving within a week or two of an operation on the left leg. The key factor here is your reaction time. Once your reaction times have returned to normal, you should be able to drive again.


With the right leg, the recovery timeline is generally longer. This is because your right leg needs to be able to respond quickly when you need to use the gas and brake pedals. On average, patients are advised to avoid driving for four to six weeks. A physical therapist can help you establish a rehab plan to help you achieve a timely recovery. With the right treatments, you can restore functionality in your knee and get back to driving as soon as possible.


You may also wonder about the timeline for recovery after a meniscus surgery. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage located near the ACL. Some people injure their meniscus and ACL at the same time, which may lead to meniscus repair surgery. The meniscus can take a long time to heal. While you may be able to walk with crutches within the first few weeks following surgery, a full recovery can take around six to nine months. With physical therapy, you can manage your symptoms during this period and accelerate your healing.


PT techniques to help you get back to driving after ACL reconstruction surgery

  • Focused exercises — Exercises are a key part of PT rehab. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop an exercise regimen that matches your needs and recovery goals. Rehab exercises serve two main purposes: building strength and improving flexibility. Both are important for regaining the ability to drive a vehicle. To build flexibility, your physical therapist may recommend a range of stretches and other targeted exercises. Restoring your full range of motion is a critical early goal in ACL surgery recovery. Improving your flexibility and reducing stiffness around the knee can make it easier to do things like walking and running. Range-of-motion exercises can also make operating your vehicle’s pedals more comfortable. You should be able to move your foot between the pedals without discomfort before driving. In addition to building flexibility, regaining your strength is also essential. Your physical therapist may recommend exercises that help improve muscle strength in areas around the knee. Specific muscle groups that are often targeted include the quadriceps and the hamstrings. Strengthening these muscles can help improve your knee’s stability, which is important for driving safety. Stronger legs can also increase your control and coordination, enabling you to make a safe return to the driver’s seat.

  • Manual therapy Manual therapy refers to hands-on techniques applied by physical therapists. Using their hands to apply controlled pressure and gentle motions, your physical therapist can help accelerate your healing. After an ACL surgery, manual therapy is often utilized for rapid pain relief and restoring mobility. Joint mobilization is one manual technique that can be particularly effective. Joint mobilization involves passive joint motion. This means your physical therapist assists in moving your joint. With joint mobilization, you can get extra help improving mobility in a stiff area. This approach can help when applied to the knee after an ACL surgery. In addition to joint mobilization, other manual therapy techniques can play a crucial role in your recovery journey. By manipulating your soft tissue, your physical therapist can increase blood flow and accelerate your body’s natural healing processes. This can shorten your recovery timeline, allowing you to get back to driving more quickly.

  • Dry needling — After surgery, you may be experiencing some residual pain and stiffness. While these symptoms are sometimes managed solely through medication, pain medications tend to only offer short-term benefits. Want a pain relief solution that can also help boost long-term healing? Dry needling is an excellent option. Using dry, sterile needles, your physical therapist can pinpoint painful areas of tissue and deliver focused relief. Dry needling works by releasing tension and stimulating blood flow. This can help alleviate pain and get vital nutrients to recovering tissue. Because of its wide range of benefits, dry needling is often used as a core element of PT treatment.


How a personalized PT plan can help you start driving after ACL surgery

  • Individualized treatment — Looking for a treatment provider that considers the nuances of your situation? Finding a good PT clinic can enable you to get the care you need. Physical therapy takes a holistic approach, addressing the entire person instead of treating each patient as a simple diagnosis. After a comprehensive assessment, your physical therapist will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan. Your treatments will be based on your condition, needs, preferences and recovery goals. With personalized one-on-one care, your physical therapist can offer a rehab program that addresses your unique challenges.
  • Goal-oriented progression — Setting realistic and achievable goals is a cornerstone of effective rehab. As you work toward recovery, your physical therapist can help you set goals and track your progress. You may set milestones related to physical functionality or the completion of practical tasks. For example, you might set driving-related goals like gaining the ability to comfortably press down on the brake pedal. Reasonable goal setting can help facilitate a healthy gradual progression toward a full recovery. As you make progress, your physical therapist can collaborate with your other healthcare providers to ensure smooth continuity of care.
  • Practical education — Physical therapy rehab is about preparing you for a full return to your normal life. What this means can vary from person to person. If you play a sport, for example, you might want to continue improving your athletic performance even after recovery. Driving is just one aspect of daily life. With PT, you can regain your ability to participate in a wide range of activities. Effective rehab programs are designed to fully prepare you to meet the multifaceted demands of life.


Get top-notch rehabilitative care at Border Therapy Services


Ready to start your rehab journey? You can access excellent PT rehab treatment at Border Therapy Services. Our team is committed to helping you make a quick and complete ACL surgery recovery. With expert guidance and an array of treatments, we can help you safely get back on the road.


Call us or request an appointment today to learn more about our post-surgical rehab program.