3 Treatments For A Torn ACL

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a band of connective tissue that runs through the knee. ACL tears are very common in athletes. They usually occur when someone twists or pivots too sharply on the knee, tearing the ligament in the process. If you have torn your ACL, there are three major treatments your doctor may recommend, depending on the seriousness of the tear and your personal preferences.

1. Steroid Injections

If the tear is quite minor, your doctor may recommend having the area injected with corticosteriods. These compounds will reduce inflammation in and around your torn ACL, which makes it easier for the body to heal. You will probably need an injection every few weeks for several months. You will probably be sent for physical therapy in conjunction with the injections. Doing certain exercises will help strengthen your knee so that the ACL not only heals but is also less prone to subsequent injuries when you return to sports. 

2. Surgery

Moderate to severe tears of the ACL often require surgical repair. Your doctor may send you for physical therapy for a few weeks to strengthen your knee before the surgery, which ensures a speedy recovery. Then, the surgery will be performed under general anesthesia. In other words, you'll be completely put under. Your doctor will use some graft tissue -- usually taken from one of the tendons in your knee -- to repair the torn ligament. It will take you a few months to slowly recover from ACL surgery, and physical therapy is an important part of the process.

3. Stem Cell Therapy

In recent years, doctors have begun to use stem cell therapy to treat mild to moderate tears of the ACL. During this procedure, your doctor will remove stem cells from your own fat or bone marrow tissues, and then inject them in and around the injured ligament. These stem cells will soon differentiate, turning into new ligament cells and regrowing the torn ligament. 

Stem cell treatment works best for younger patients, and it is still a little experimental. For these reasons, medical insurance does not always cover the procedure. However, it is a viable alternative to surgery for many patients. Your doctor can evaluate your injury and tell you whether or not you're a good candidate.

If you have torn your ACL, then you have a long road to recovery ahead of you regardless of what treatment method you choose. Make sure you follow your doctor's orders to minimize side effects and speed up your recovery.