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Does an ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

Does an ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

Your knee is a complex joint. It’s where your femur and lower leg bones come together. The collateral and cruciate ligaments (thick, fibrous bands of tissue) hold the bones together and help you move smoothly. 

The cruciate ligaments include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament, which cross like an X and keep your knee stable so you can move in many directions. They’re also susceptible to injury. 

Annually, around a quarter million Americans tear this ligament, which connects your lower leg bone and femur at the knee. This injury usually happens when your body suddenly stops, turns, or twists. 

No matter the cause, ACL tears are painful and can keep you off your feet for months. At Ortho 1 Medical Group in San Diego, La Jolla, Chula Vista, and Coronado, California, our orthopedic providers have the experience and skills needed to diagnose your ACL injury and recommend the right treatment for your situation.

Many patients wonder if ACL tears can heal themselves or if surgical repair is the only option. The answer depends on your injury and your goals for recovery. Here’s a closer look at ACL tears and the ways they heal.   

Understanding ACL injuries

Most ACL injuries happen when you’re doing a sport or physical activity that doesn’t involve hard contact with others. For example, activities or sports that demand a sudden change in motion, like basketball or downhill skiing, are the most common cause of ACL injuries. 

Other motions or activities that can lead to an ACL injury include:  

Keep in mind that injuring your ACL doesn’t always equal a torn ACL. However, every ACL injury contributes to knee joint instability and may lead to issues with mobility and physical activity. For this reason, visit a specialist any time you suspect an ACL injury.  

Signs of an ACL tear

For most people, the first sign of a torn ACL is a popping sound or feeling at the time you get injured. This is usually followed by extreme pain and inability to bear weight on the injured leg. Other signs of a torn ACL include:

Since your knee is such a complex joint, different injuries to it can trigger the same or similar symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to schedule an appointment with a knee expert, like the team at Ortho 1 Medical Group, for the right diagnosis. 

Your provider diagnoses your ACL injury using a review of your symptoms, medical history, and a physical exam to look for signs of an ACL tear. Your provider may also order imaging studies, like an MRI or X-ray, to confirm the diagnosis or look at the extent of your injury. 

How ACL tears heal

It’s technically possible for ACL tears to heal with rest and other noninvasive therapies. However, in most cases, it’s beneficial for your long-term recovery to seek medication treatment. 

Your Ortho 1 Medical Group provider takes into account your pre-injury activity level and other factors, like the severity of the injury, degree of knee instability, your ability to bear weight, before creating a personalized ACL tear treatment plan.

If you have decent knee stability, are older, or don’t have a very active lifestyle, your provider might recommend trying conservative treatments, such as anti-inflammatory medications, bracing and rest and elevation, conditioning and strength rehabilitation, and regenerative medicine therapies. 

Generally, however, for patients seeking to fully restore mobility, surgical repair offers the safest and most effective way to address a torn ACL. Surgical intervention ensures your ligament heals fully and in the proper way. 

At Ortho 1 Medical Group, our providers perform ACL repair using minimally invasive surgical techniques. They rebuild your torn ligament using a graft. The donor tissue used depends on your needs and may include different graft and allograft sources, including:

Your provider places the graft materials and reconstructs your injured ACL using specialized surgical implants to hold the graft in place. As you heal, the grafted tissues add strength and stability to your injured knee. 

For more information about ACL tear repair, schedule a consultation online or over the phone today with a specialist at one of the four San Diego-area Ortho 1 Medical Group locations.

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