Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is an important stabilizing ligament in your knee, and it’s one you may hear about frequently. Up to 200,000 people experience ACL tears in the United States each year. Because your ACL is essential for knee stability, any injury or damage to this ligament can result in significant knee instability.
ACL tears are a common sports injury, but they can occur in anyone regardless of whether they’re an athlete or not. As sports medicine specialists, we know that the most common question to follow an ACL tear is, “Will an ACL tear heal on its own?” Dr. Dustin Hamoy helps you get the rehabilitative care you need so your ACL injuries heal. Every sports injury treatment plan is customized to your specific needs, incorporating physical therapy and using the multiwave locked system ® (MLS) from ASA Laser when appropriate.
But is this enough to help your ACL tear heal on its own? Read on to find out.
Full versus partial ACL tears
Before you can determine if your ACL tear will heal on its own (or without surgery), it’s important to know the severity of the injury. Most ACL tears happen as a result of quickly pivoting, but they can also occur as a result of a fall or another traumatic impact.
ACL tears can be full or partial. A full ACL tear means that the tear extends through the full length of the ligament, while a partial tear means the injury only extends part-way through the ligament. Both full and partial ACL tears cause knee pain, swelling, and joint instability, although you may notice more intense symptoms with a full tear.
How are ACL tears treated?
At Precision Laser Joint and Spine Pain Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland, we treat a variety of sports injuries, and ACL tears are no exception. However, before Dr. Hamoy recommends any type of treatment for your ACL injury, he performs a thorough examination of your knee. He also reviews diagnostic images (such as an X-ray or MRI) to better assess the extent of the tear.
Treatment plans for ACL tears vary greatly depending on the following factors:
- If the tear is full or partial
- The severity of your symptoms
- Your lifestyle
- Your own goals
Full ACL tears almost always require surgical intervention with a procedure called arthroscopy. During this minimally invasive procedure, a special camera and surgical tools are inserted through a small incision. Depending on your specific case, even a partial tear may benefit from surgery if other parts of your knee 一 other ligaments, tendons, or even your kneecap 一 are damaged.
Is surgery always necessary?
No, surgery isn’t always required for ACL tears. Although full ACL tears and some partial tears require surgery, some partial tears can be treated without surgery provided you follow all treatment plans and avoid straining your knee while it heals.
That being said, even though you might not need surgery, an ACL tear heals better with treatment. Nonsurgical options for ACL tears include:
- Lifestyle modifications
- Physical therapy
- MLS laser therapy
Lifestyle modifications may include altering your activity or using an assistive device until your ligament heals. Meanwhile, physical therapy helps strengthen the muscles that support your knee joint while improving the range of motion and functionality of your knee.
MLS laser therapy delivers dual infrared light wavelengths that penetrate your skin and reach the bones and tissues underneath your skin. Laser therapy can help treat ACL injuries by stimulating cell regeneration and improving blood circulation. As blood circulation improves, the platelets and healing growth factors help your ligament heal and repair itself.
Bottom line: Though you might not need surgery, an ACL tear heals better under the care of an innovative rehabilitation specialist like Dr. Hamoy.
Don’t ignore knee pain
As a weight-bearing joint, your knees are susceptible to a lot of wear-and-tear, both on the sports field and off of it. Because your knees are essential for taking you from point A to point B (and sometimes doing so rather quickly!), it's no wonder that there are so many ACL tears reported each year.
The key to alleviating your pain and restoring functionality is to seek medical care as soon as you first notice your symptoms. Some ACL tears are minor, but swift treatment can help you avoid exacerbating the tear.
To learn more about how we treat ACL tears with physical therapy and MLS laser therapy, call us at 659-204-5737. You can also request an appointment using our online booking tool.