Recovering from ACL surgery is no easy feat. It requires time, immense patience, and a detailed physiotherapy plan. Due to its gentle nature, yoga is often recommended by many practitioners as part of their patient’s recovery. The beneficial effects of yoga after ACL surgery transcend from the physical to the mental, to overall body improvement.
Using yoga for ACL surgery recovery
The ACL is a ligament that crosses over the knee and provides rotational stability. When the knee is forced to bend/rotate beyond its natural capacity, the ligament can tear, and surgery is required. The initial phases of recovering after ACL surgery involve elevation, icing, anti-inflammatories and minimizing weight-bearing activities (meaning no weightlifting, deep bending, sharp twisting, or sudden movements). While there are many restrictions to the type of exercise that can be done after ACL surgery, yoga works well in that it allows the individual to maintain fitness levels while gently building back knee strength. Yoga forces the individual to approach each pose or sequence at a gentler pace, only building in complexity as the injured ligament becomes stronger. Each pose can be modified to take stress off the knee, without compromising the supporting muscles/ligaments. Yoga restores the body’s natural balance and symmetry.
Calming of the mind and healing of the body
Injuries are often not limited to just the physical body and can be very taxing on the mind. Mental stress can easily affect physical stress and make the recovery process take even longer. A large part of the yoga practice is centered around calming the mind, reducing overall stress, and increasing body awareness. The soothing and meditative qualities of yoga create a gentle way for the body to adjust to the discomfort so that the neuropathways can say “This is uncomfortable, but tolerable since it is adding in the recovery process.”
Increasing blood flow
ACL injuries naturally force the individual to slow down and restricts movement. Restricting movement leads to muscle stiffness and pore circulation to the muscles/ligaments. The less oxygenated blood that reaches the muscles/ligaments, the slower the healing process. Yoga encourages a gentle approach to movement, allowing oxygen to freely flow throughout the body. The more oxygenated blood that reaches the ACL ligament, the quicker the recovery process will be.
Light repetitive movement balances out the body
One of the likely issues with ACL surgery recovery is that injury to one of the four major ligaments in the knee risks straining the remaining three. When one leg is injured, the healthy leg often overcompensates for the injured leg. A major injury like tearing the ACL can easily unbalance the entire body. Many physical therapists will focus both on improving the strength of the ACL, as well as how the rest of the body is reacting to the injury. The light repetitive movements of yoga will allow the injured ACL to recover, while at the same time supporting and not overstraining the supporting ligaments/muscles. Over time the body will re-find its natural alignment and balance.