ACL Rehabilitation

ACL Rehabilitation

Our expert team provides personalized care to help you recover from ACL injuries and return to the activities you love.

ACL Rehabilitation in Greater St. Louis. Dealing with an ACL injury can be overwhelming and challenging, but the right locations throughout the Greater St. Louis area, our team of licensed St. Louis physical and occupational therapists averages over 15 years of experience. We are dedicated to providing individualized therapy services tailored to your unique needs. Leveraging cutting-edge treatment techniques, we form a team with you and your doctor to ensure the best possible outcomes for your recovery.

Ready to start your ACL rehabilitation journey? Contact Axes Physical Therapy, schedule an appointment, or call the Axes location nearest you and begin your path to recovery. Let us help you return to the activities you love with confidence and strength.

Understanding ACL Injuries

Common Causes and Risk Factors

An ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tear is a common knee injury that is prevalent among athletes and active individuals, often resulting from specific movements or traumatic events. During an ACL tear, the anterior cruciate ligament, which connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), is overstretched and ruptures. The ligament fibers tear either partially or completely, leading to instability and compromised knee function. Understanding the common causes and risk factors can help in both preventing and managing these injuries.

  • Quick Deceleration and Changes in Direction: One of the most common causes of ACL tears is rapid deceleration combined with a sudden change in direction. These movements place significant stress on the knee, making the ACL susceptible to tearing.
  • Direct Trauma: Direct blows to the knee, particularly from the side, can cause ACL injuries. This is often seen with contact sports injuries in sports such as football and soccer.
  • Higher Incidence in Females: Females are more likely to suffer from ACL tears due to anatomical differences such as a wider pelvis, increased ligament laxity, and differences in muscle strength and coordination.
  • Risky Sports: Participation in sports that involve frequent and quick deceleration, changes of direction, and jumping, such as basketball, soccer, and skiing, increases the risk of ACL tears.
  • Previous ACL Injuries: Having a prior ACL injury increases the likelihood of re-injury, especially if the initial injury did not fully heal or the rehabilitation process was incomplete.
  • Weak Musculature: Insufficient strength in the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, can increase the risk of an ACL tear. Strong muscles help stabilize the knee joint.
  • Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes that do not provide adequate support or traction can contribute to slips and awkward movements that might result in an ACL injury.

By recognizing these common causes and risk factors, you can take proactive steps to protect your knees, such as engaging in targeted strength training, improving flexibility, and practicing proper techniques during sports and physical activities in St. Louis.

ACL Rehabilitation St. Louis | Physical Therapy Near St. Louis | Rehab for ACL Injuries and Surgery


Recognizing the symptoms of an ACL tear is crucial for prompt diagnosis and effective treatment:

  • Popping Sensation: Many individuals report hearing or feeling a “pop” in their knee at the moment of injury.
  • Pain: Immediate and severe pain often accompanies an ACL injury, making it difficult to continue activity.
  • Swelling: Swelling usually occurs within the first few hours after the injury as the knee joint fills with blood.
  • Loss of Range of Motion: The injured knee may lose its full range of motion, making it difficult to bend or straighten the leg.
  • Instability: The knee may feel unstable or give way, particularly during weight-bearing activities, due to the lack of support from the damaged ligament.
  • Tenderness: The knee may be tender to the touch, especially along the joint line.
  • Inability to Bear Weight: Severe pain and instability often make it difficult or impossible to bear weight on the affected leg.
  • Muscle Weakness: Weakness in the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, may develop due to disuse and pain.


Accurate diagnosis of an ACL injury typically involves a combination of clinical assessment and imaging techniques in St. Louis:

  • Clinical Assessment: A physical examination by a healthcare provider includes tests like the Lachman test, anterior drawer test, and pivot shift test to evaluate the integrity of the ACL. You can come to Axes directly for a free injury screening (and start your ACL rehabilitation with us through Direct Access Physical Therapy).
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): An MRI scan provides detailed images of the soft tissues in the knee, confirming the presence and extent of an ACL tear.
  • Ultrasound: This imaging technique can be used to visualize the ligament and assess any damage.
  • X-ray: While x-rays do not show soft tissues like ligaments, they are used to rule out any associated bone fractures that might have occurred during the injury.

Early and accurate diagnosis is essential for developing an effective treatment plan and ensuring optimal recovery in your ACL rehabilitation in St. Louis.

Phases of ACL Rehabilitation in St. Louis

ACL rehabilitation following an injury or surgery is a structured process that aims to restore function, strength, and stability to the knee. This process is typically divided into several phases, including pre and post surgical rehab, each with specific goals and activities designed to progressively enhance recovery. Here are the key phases of ACL rehabilitation in St. Louis:

1. Pre-surgery Preparation (Prehabilitation)


  • Reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • Restore full range of motion, particularly extension.
  • Strengthen the muscles around the knee.
  • Improve proprioception and balance.


  • Gentle range of motion exercises (e.g., heel slides, wall slides).
  • Strengthening exercises (e.g., quadriceps sets, straight leg raises).
  • Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) to improve muscle strength.
  • Cardiovascular exercises that are low impact, such as swimming and cycling.

2. Immediate Post-surgery Recovery (0-2 weeks)


  • Manage pain and reduce swelling.
  • Protect the surgical repair.
  • Begin early movement and muscle activation.


  • Use of ice, compression, and elevation to control swelling (POLICE principle: Protect, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
  • Gentle passive and active range of motion exercises.
  • Weight-bearing as tolerated, with crutches if necessary.
  • Ankle pumps, quad sets, and heel slides.

3. Early Rehabilitation (2-6 weeks)


  • Achieve full range of motion.
  • Begin to build strength and stability.
  • Normalize walking pattern.


  • Progression of range of motion exercises.
  • Introduction of closed kinetic chain exercises such as mini squats and step-ups.
  • Static balance exercises.
  • Use of stationary bike for gentle cycling.

4. Intermediate Rehabilitation (6-12 weeks)


  • Increase muscle strength and endurance.
  • Improve proprioception and dynamic stability.
  • Begin low-impact cardiovascular training.


  • Strengthening exercises for quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes (e.g., leg press, lunges, hamstring curls).
  • Proprioceptive training (e.g., single-leg balance, balance board exercises).
  • Low-impact aerobic exercises (e.g., elliptical, swimming).
  • Hydrotherapy can be beneficial for some patients.

5. Advanced Rehabilitation (3-6 months)


  • Enhance strength, power, and agility.
  • Prepare for return to sport or high-level activity.


  • Plyometric exercises (e.g., jump training).
  • Sport-specific drills (e.g., agility ladder, cone drills).
  • Gradual return to running program, starting with jogging and progressing to sprints.
  • Functional training to simulate sport-specific movements.

6. Return to Activity (6-12 months)


  • Safely return to sports or activities.
  • Maintain strength and prevent re-injury.


  • Continuation of advanced strengthening and plyometric exercises.
  • Full participation in sport-specific training.
  • Ongoing proprioceptive and balance training.
  • Regular check-ins with your St. Louis physical therapist to monitor progress and adjust the program as needed.

Each phase of ACL rehabilitation in St. Louis, from pre- and post-surgical rehabilitation to a return to activities, is crucial for achieving a full recovery and preventing future injuries. Following a structured rehabilitation program under the guidance of experienced physical therapists ensures that patients can return to their activities with confidence and strength. For personalized ACL rehabilitation plans in St. Louis, contact Axes today.

Role of St. Louis Physical Therapy in ACL Rehabilitation

Personalized Rehabilitation Plans

Physical therapy plays a pivotal role in ACL rehabilitation by providing tailored rehabilitation plans that address the specific needs of each patient. Every ACL injury is unique, and recovery programs must be customized to ensure optimal outcomes. Experienced St. Louis physical therapists assess the your condition, set realistic goals, and design a step-by-step program that includes exercises, manual therapy, and modalities to support healing and regain function.

Early Mobilization and Pain Management

In the initial stages in ACL rehabilitation, physical therapy focuses on reducing pain and swelling while promoting early mobilization. Techniques such as ice therapy, compression, elevation, and gentle range of motion exercises help manage pain and minimize inflammation. Early mobilization is crucial for preventing joint stiffness and encouraging blood flow to the affected area, which aids in the healing process.

Strengthening and Stability

As the you progress through the ACL rehabilitation phases in St. Louis, the emphasis shifts to strengthening the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Strengthening these muscles is vital for stabilizing the knee joint and preventing future injuries. Physical therapists use a variety of exercises, including closed kinetic chain exercises like squats and lunges, to build strength and improve joint stability.

Proprioception and Balance Training

Restoring proprioception—the body’s ability to sense movement and position—is a critical aspect of ACL rehabilitation. St. Louis physical therapists incorporate balance and coordination exercises to enhance proprioception and reduce the risk of re-injury. These exercises may include balance boards, single-leg stands, and dynamic activities that challenge the patient’s stability in a controlled environment.

Advanced Functional Training

In the later stages of ACl rehabilitation, St. Louis physical therapists focus on advanced functional training to prepare patients for a return to sports or daily activities. This includes sport-specific drills, agility training, and plyometric exercises that mimic the movements and demands of the patient’s chosen sport or activity. Functional training helps ensure that the knee can handle the stresses and strains of real-life movements.

Ongoing Support and Education

St. Louis physical therapists also provide ongoing support and education throughout the ACL rehabilitation process. We’ll teach you about proper techniques, injury prevention strategies, and the importance of adhering to your rehabilitation program. Education empowers patients to take an active role in their recovery and maintain the health of their knee joint long after formal therapy has ended.

By working with a skilled physical therapist, patients can navigate the challenges of ACL rehabilitation more effectively, achieving a full recovery and a return to the activities they love. For personalized ACL rehabilitation plans and expert care, visit Axes Physical Therapy.

Call Axes for Your ACL Rehabilitation in St. Louis Today

Recovering from an ACL injury can feel overwhelming, but with the right ACL rehabilitation program in St. Louis, it is entirely possible to regain full function and return to the activities you love. At Axes Physical Therapy, we are committed to providing personalized, expert care throughout every phase of your recovery. Our experienced St. Louis physical therapists use advanced techniques and tailored programs to ensure the best outcomes for your specific injury, goals, and lifestyle. By focusing on strengthening, stability, and functional training, we help you build a solid foundation for long-term knee health.

Ready to start your St. Louis ACL rehabilitation journey? Contact Axes Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment or call the Axes location nearest you. Let us help you achieve your recovery goals and stay active with confidence and strength.


Begin Your Recovery Today

Injuries and pain shouldn’t keep you from moving and doing the things you love.