The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a large ligament in the knee that prevents the lower leg from moving forward at the knee. This ligament helps stabilize the knee by resisting anterior movement of the tibia, or lower leg, and internal rotation of the tibia. Injuries to the ACL are fairly common, particularly with sports. It’s common to hear or feel a pop in the knee when an ACL tear occurs, however, with sudden impacts such as those sustained in an auto accident, this can easily be missed.
Injuries of the ACL often occur with excessive knee rotation or extension. With injury, the ACL can become lax as well. When this happens, the ACL allows the lower leg to move forward more than its normal range. This can lead to increased wear at the knee joint and an increased risk of future injury.
The ACL can be injured or torn in auto collisions as well. The sudden force of an auto collision can be transferred into the knee joint and directed through the ACL. Common methods of ACL injury in an auto accident include forceful rotation of the knee or excessive extension of the knee joint.
Partial ACL tears may heal and improve over time. However, the ACL receives most of its nutrition through synovial fluid, or the fluid of the joint, and has a poor blood supply limiting healing.
Fully torn ACLs cannot be reattached without surgical repair. Surgical repair may be necessary for these full ACL tears in order to stabilize the knee joint, particularly if activities that involve knee rotation are to be continued.
Conservative treatment focuses on increasing joint stability, improving muscle strength, and reducing the chances of further tears and injury.
Some early exercises for recovery after an ACL injury include quad sets, straight leg raises, and isometric quadriceps contractions. As symptoms subside and recovery progresses, more strenuous exercises such as heel raises and half squats may be included.
Other structures in the knee and surrounding area can produce pain and symptoms similar to an ACL tear. Some of these include the lateral collateral ligaments of the knee, the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the meniscus of the knee. Your Chiropractor will be able to help diagnose and differentiate between these and other potential causes of knee pain.
Your Chiropractor will be able to provide conservative treatment, exercise, and stretching instruction for ACL tears and other conditions that cause knee pain. Contact your Chiropractor if you are suffering knee pain as a result of wear, injury, or an auto accident.