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Will an ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

Your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a ligament just over one inch long that stabilizes your knee joint. It’s naturally flexible, but a sudden stop or a hard impact can result in an ACL tear.

Did you know that ACL tears are among the most common sports injuries? These injuries can cause pain, joint instability, and limited mobility — and they can quickly sideline even the most seasoned competitors.

Our team at Manhattan Orthopedics specializes in diagnosing and treating ACL injuries in Astoria, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, New York. One of the most common questions we hear from our patients is, “Can an ACL tear heal on its own?” And in most cases, the answer is no. Here’s why.

The basics of an ACL tear

Your ACL is a strong band of tissue that connects your femur (thigh bone) to your tibia (shin bone). Its job is to help stabilize your knee joint when you move and twist.

It plays an essential role in providing stability and preventing excessive forward movement of your tibia in relation to your femur — a movement that’s common during activities that involve sudden stops, directional changes, or focused impact to the knee. Sports like soccer, basketball, football, and skiing are all common culprits for ACL injuries.

The severity of ACL tears range from a partial tear to a complete rupture. When your ACL tears, you might hear or feel a popping sensation. Other common symptoms include immediate pain, swelling, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected knee.

Some people experience only mild discomfort, and they’re able to continue with their daily activities relatively unhindered. However, a bigger tear can significantly impair your knee function. No matter the severity of your injury, it’s important to get it checked out by a professional.

What to do if you have an ACL tear

If you’ve injured your knee, it can be tempting to wait and see if it heals on its own — especially if your daily activities aren’t seriously impacted. Even though the human body possesses remarkable healing abilities, the structure and function of the ACL make spontaneous healing unlikely.

Your ACL has relatively poor blood supply compared to other tissues in your body, which limits its ability to repair itself effectively. Plus, continuing to use your knee and bear weight on the affected leg can also restrict healing.

That means professional evaluation is essential following an ACL injury. Our team is trained to assess the extent of the damage and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on your situation, we may use a combination of physical examination, imaging studies (like an MRI), and your personal medical history to diagnose your injury accurately.

Once we understand the severity of your ACL tear, we determine the best course of action. For some patients, especially those with partial tears or minimal symptoms, conservative management might be enough. These nonsurgical treatments typically involve a combination of rest, physical therapy, and bracing to stabilize your knee and promote healing.

Physical therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles around your knee to improve range of motion and restore function. By addressing muscle imbalances and improving joint stability, it’s possible to minimize pain and regain mobility without surgery.

For others, ACL surgery might be the best option. Nonsurgical treatment may not fully restore the stability and function of your knee, especially if you’re an athlete or an active individual and you plan to return to high-impact sports after recovery.

An ACL tear is unlikely to heal on its own — but the injury doesn’t have to sideline you indefinitely. Prompt professional care helps restore stability, alleviate pain, and improve function so you can get back to your favorite activities.

Schedule your orthopedic evaluation online, or call the Manhattan Orthopedics office nearest you to get started today.

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