If you have an acute (sudden)
anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, use the
following first aid steps to reduce pain and swelling:
- Rest and reduce your activity level.
Use crutches if it hurts to put weight on your knee, until you can see your
doctor. Crutches can be rented from most pharmacies. When you call for an
appointment, tell your doctor that you are using crutches. Crutches should not
be used for long because a lack of activity can cause muscle tissue to waste
away and result in restricted movement of the knee.
- Ice your knee. To avoid a freeze-burn, do not put the ice directly on your skin.
Put a cloth or towel between the ice and your knee.
- Elevate your
knee while applying ice or any time you are sitting or lying
- Wrap your knee with an elastic bandage or neoprene sleeve
(available at a pharmacy). This may help ease pain during movement and reduce
fluid inside the knee. Don't wrap your knee too tightly, as this may cause
swelling below the bandage. Loosen the bandage if it is too tight. Signs of an
overly tight bandage include numbness, tingling, increased pain, and coolness
in the foot.
- Take medicine such as acetaminophen or
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to
reduce your pain.
After diagnosis of an ACL injury, your doctor may suggest
exercises that help strengthen your leg and increase your range of motion. They
may be the start of your nonsurgical treatment program or be used to help
prepare your knee for surgery. For more information, see:
- ACL injury: Exercises to do before treatment.
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