Following surgery for a torn ACL, physical therapy is an extremely important part of the recovery process. Initially after surgery, for the first two weeks the dog goes through “phase one” physical therapy. There are multiple goals for this time period, including post-operative pain management, maintaining an adequate range of motion in the joint, encouraging normal controlled usage of the leg, and managing the post-operative inflammation.
These goals are achieved through several different therapy techniques. In the days immediately following surgery, ice packs should be applied to the leg 4-5 times a day for 10-15 minutes. A gentle massage of the leg will help promote blood flow and decrease post-surgical swelling. After the initial surgical pain is diminished (48-72 hours post-surgery), passive range of motion exercises are used to promote joint fluidity and to stretch the knee and hip. About one to two weeks post-surgery, we start encouraging our patients to use their leg, with slow controlled leash walks 3 to 4 times daily for 5-10 minutes. Therapeutic anti-inflammatory laser treatments can also decrease pain, inflammation and swelling.