Did I Tear My ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament — more commonly known simply as the ACL — is a key factor in the stabilization of your knee joint. It is often injured during sports during times of sudden directional changes or stops. Landing and jumping can also result in an ACL tear. Football, soccer, downhill skiing and basketball are common activities that can result in this type of injury. 

Signs and Symptoms of an ACL Tear

The signs of an ACL tear can be dramatic or more subtle. Many people who wind up being diagnosed with an ACL tear hear a “pop” as the knee joint shifts. Even if you don’t hear that telltale sign, you can usually tell the difference in the shifting of the joint. 

Another common sign that indicates an ACL tear is when your knee is unstable. This might mean that your knee gives out when you are making sudden movements like pivoting or jumping. Sometimes, though, knee instability can occur with everyday movements like simply walking or bending your legs to get into a car. 

It’s very likely that you’ll experience significant swelling in the knee when you have an ACL tear. Not only is this swelling usually large, but it also usually happens within just a few minutes after the knee joint is injured. This occurs because the vessels that supply the ligament with blood then fill that space with blood once it’s torn. This condition is called, Hemarthrosis, and results in warmth, swelling, bruising, redness and a bubbling sensation that’s felt in the joint. While most of the pain that is associated with an ACL tear is due to the swelling of the knee joint, its presence is common and can vary widely depending on the amount of damage to the knee joint itself. 

Treatment Steps For Potential ACL Tear at Home

If you’re not able to see your physician right away, there are a few treatment steps you can take to address your potential ACL tear at home. In order to reduce the pain and swelling associated with an ACL tear, prompt home care is recommended. The RICE model is a good first step.

  • Rest
    • Be sure to rest your knee and limit the amount of weight that you bear with it. Resting the knee also allows it to heal more effectively.
  • Ice
    • Ice helps reduce the swelling. Aim for 20 minutes of icing every two hours on the affected knee. Remember to avoid applying ice directly to your bare skin. 
  • Compression
    • Provide support for your knee while also reducing the swelling by wrapping it in a compression wrap or an elastic bandage. 
  • Elevation
    • When you are resting your knee, keep it propped up on pillows so that it’s elevated. 


Once the swelling and pain have subsided, and you’ve been able to be assessed by your physician, you’ll need to undergo rehabilitation on your knee. A physical therapist will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan that is designed to increase your knee’s stability and improve your range of motion. You might also need to use crutches and/or wear a brace to keep weight off your knee until it has completely healed. 

BackFit Health + Spine can help you in the case of an ACL tear. We’re not only able to help identify the issue but also provide a treatment plan from start to finish. Contact us today to schedule an exam and let us help you get back on track

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