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Can an ACL Tear Heal without Surgery?

Posted on: March 21st, 2023 by Our Team

A popping or snapping sensation in the knee that is experienced while abruptly changing running directions is one of the characteristic signs of an ACL tear. This is generally followed by pain and swelling. An MRI scan is usually used to confirm the diagnosis. “What’s the best treatment?” you might wonder – Can an ACL tear heal without surgery?

It really depends on the severity of the tear and your activity level. Very minor tears (sprains) may heal with non-surgical treatments and regenerative medicine therapy. But full ACL tears cannot be healed without surgery.

If your activities do not involve making pivoting movements on the knee, physical therapy rehabilitation may be all you need. Special exercises may help train the musculature around the knee to compensate for the torn ACL and stabilize the joint. For example, activities such as jogging in a straight line on a flat surface may be performed with minor ACL sprains.

But the recommendation for young athletes or active patients is have ACL repair surgery sooner rather than later to prevent damage to the cartilage and meniscus inside the knee and long-term consequences such as osteoarthritis.

A young athlete that returns to pivoting sports such as basketball, tennis, soccer, and football after only having undergone physical therapy rehab despite a confirmed ACL tear is at a very high risk for serious injury to the meniscus. This could result in a longer duration of time away from the game they love than if the ACL tear was surgically treated in the first place.

Dr. Ronak Patel will perform an in-depth evaluation of your ACL injury and discuss your goals and expectations of treatment in detail before offering personalized options that are most likely to result in a positive outcome.

Dr. Ronak Patel is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon offering a full range of care for all problems of the knee and shoulder with a special interest in complex knee disorders. Book your appointment with Dr. Patel today: (630) 929-2249.

At a Glance

Ronak M. Patel M.D.

  • Double Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Past Team Physician to the Cavaliers (NBA), Browns (NFL) and Guardians (MLB)
  • Published over 49 publications and 10 book chapters
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