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Non-Surgical Treatment

In some circumstances, patients may choose not to have surgery to repair their damaged ACL, or they may not be a good candidate for surgery. Factors such as the type and extent of your ACL injury, any injuries to surrounding tissues, and your age and lifestyle are all important factors in determining if a non-surgical approach to your ACL injury is appropriate.

Your UPMC Sports Medicine knee surgeon can guide you in the decision-making process by helping you understand the potential benefits and risks of a non-surgical approach to your ACL injury. For minor ACL injuries, protective braces and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the knee may be enough. To treat a minor ACL tear, your doctor may suggest that you:

  • Apply ice to the knee a few times a day
  • Elevate the knee above the level of the heart
  • Compress the knee with a bandage or wrap
  • Reduce or halt activity for several weeks
  • Take anti-inflammatory drugs — such as ibuprofen — to reduce swelling and speed up recovery

While braces can provide extra stability for your knee, they have not been shown to scientifically prevent an ACL injury or prevent you from reinjuring your knee if you do not have a fully functioning ACL.

The time-frame for which non-surgical treatment options may be needed will vary based on the extent of your injury and how well your body is able heal. Everyone is different and heals at different rates. Trying to do too much before your body is ready can lead to new injuries and possible longer-term consequences such as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.

If non-surgical approaches do not work or do not provide you with the stability in your knee that you require, surgery may still be an option for you. Discuss your treatment options and goals with your UPMC Sports Medicine knee surgeon so they can help you determine the proper treatment option to get you back to your normal routine as fast, and safely, as possible.